Butternut Squash & Apple Soup with Crispy Fried Onions & Goat Cheese

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Last year we stored a lot of vegetables, I mean our freezer was full of cut up pumpkin shortly after the Halloween:) I promised Sergey that it will go to good use…however by the time summer came…it was still sitting there…so we finally got rid of it.   I just simply didn’t have time to come up with something creative that my family will love…because most of them don’t like pumpkin to begin with.  We also bought some butternut squashes last fall and Sergey planted some seeds next to the house and guess what…a year later we grew our own homegrown butternut squashes!

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I’ll be quite honest I know nothing about gardening:) so don’t start asking me questions on that topic…but Sergey does…so hopefully he can teach me:) there is some hope there for me to learn.  The squashes grew quite big and looked amazing and with my older daughter’s request we decided to make some soup, this time adding some extra ingredients to spice things up.  This soup has puree texture (you can thin it out with extra broth if you like)…but it still needs a little bit of crunch.  So we decided to add there some homemade fried onions and topping it with  goat cheese,  This dish ended up looking like something you would find in a fancy Manhattan restaurant…or at least we like to think so…what do you think?:)

Ingredients:

3 Granny Smith Apples
1 cup of Half and Half
1 cup of Carrots
5 Cloves of Garlic
Chicken Stock (already made) or you can make your own
Yellow Onions
Celery Stalks
1/2 Cup of Flour
1/2 Cup of Milk to soak onions
Garlic Powder
Olive Oil
Canola Oil for Frying Onions
Salt and Pepper to Taste
 

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How to make Butternut Squash, Apple Soup with Home Crispy Fried onions and Goat Cheese:

1.  Peel the skin off your Granny Smith Apples and cut them up.

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2.  Cut Butternut Squash in Half and spoon out the middle part.

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3.  Peel the skin off the squashes and cut them up in smaller pieces.

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4.  Cut up roughly half of the yellow onion.

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5.  Wash your carrots, if you have baby carrots you can leave them as is, if you have regular size carrots…cut them up in smaller pieces. Cut up you celery and garlic as well.

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6.  Add all your apples, vegetables and onions on a baking tray, cover it nicely with olive oil….add salt and pepper to taste.

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7.  Preheat your over to 375F and cook your vegetables until they are ready and butternut squash can be easily pierced with fork.   It might take between 45 minutes to an hour…depending how small you will cut the pieces.

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8.  In the meantime heat up your chicken stock in the pot, or prepare fresh one from scratch.  Once your vegetables and apples are nicely roasted and ready add them all to your chicken stock.

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9.  Using immersion blender, puree all the ingredients to the consistency you prefer.  Add more salt/pepper to taste if necessary.

10.   Once your soup is ready you can add some half and half to make it more creamy and smooth.  I added about a cup of half and half…(it was a pretty big pot).  You can make it light and avoid it all together…but it does taste better with it.

11.  Now it’s time to make some crispy onions.  I’ve always bought them in the store already made (my daughter likes to add them to salads), but this time around I ran out of them…..and decided to make our own version of them at home.  To do that, use your mandoline slicer on a thin setting and slice up the rest of your onion in thin half rings…about 3 mm.  Put all the onions in a bowl and cover them with milk, let them stand for about an hour.  Once onions have soaked for a bit, coat them well in a flour mixed with some garlic powder/salt and pepper.

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12.  Once onions are well coated fry them covered in oil for few minutes and fry them until they become crispy golden color.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Some of my onions were over fried:) that what I get when I am trying to cook and do HW with kids at the same time:)….but they still turned out pretty good.

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13.  Once everything is ready, pour some soup in a soup bowl, make a little nest with your fried onions and top it with some goat cheese.  I also sprinkled some parsley on top for extra color and taste.

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This dish ended up being really delicious and healthy.  I hope you will enjoy it too!

Love,

Natalie

Butternut Squash/Apple Soup with Fried Onions and Goat Cheese
 
Prep time
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Butternut Squash, Apple Soup with Crispy Fried Onions and Goat Cheese
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 Granny Smith Apples
  • 1 cup of Half and Half
  • 1 cup of Carrots
  • 5 Cloves of Garlic
  • Garlic Powder
  • ½ Cup of milk to coat the onions
  • Chicken Stock (already made) or you can make your own
  • Yellow Onions
  • Celery Stalks
  • Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil for frying
  • ½ of Flour
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
Instructions
  1. Peel the skin off your Granny Smith Apples and cut them up.
  2. Cut Butternut Squash in Half and spoon out the middle part.
  3. Peel the skin off the squashes and cut them up in smaller pieces.
  4. Cut up roughly half of the yellow onion.
  5. Wash your carrots, if you have baby carrots you can leave them as is, if you have regular size carrots…cut them up in smaller pieces. Cut up you celery and garlic as well.
  6. Add all your apples, vegetables and onions on a baking tray, cover it nicely with olive oil….add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Preheat your over to 375F and cook your vegetables until they are ready and butternut squash can be easily pierced with fork. It might take between 45 minutes to an hour…depending how small you will cut the pieces.
  8. In the meantime heat up your chicken stock in the pot, or prepare fresh one from scratch. Once your vegetables and apples are nicely roasted and ready add them all to your chicken stock.
  9. Using immersion blender, puree all the ingredients to the consistency you prefer. Add more salt/pepper to taste if necessary.
  10. Once your soup is ready you can add some half and half to make it more creamy and smooth. I added about a cup of half and half…(it was a pretty big pot). You can make it light and avoid it all together…but it does taste better with it.
  11. Now it’s time to make some crispy onions. Use your mandoline slicer on a thin setting and slice up the rest of your onion in thin half rings…about 3 mm. Then coat them well in a flour.
  12. Once onions are well coated fry them covered in oil for few minutes and fry them until they become crispy golden color. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Once everything is ready, pour some soup in a soup bowl, make a little nest with your fried onions and top it with some goat cheese. I also sprinkled some parsley on top for extra color and taste.
  14. Enjoy!

 

Cheesy Cauliflower Baked Tater Tots

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I remember the time when this blog was where I spent most of my days…cooking…taking pictures…chatting with others…and then…oh well life just kicked in:)  Nowadays I am quite busy with work, kids, after school homeworks, extracurricular activities on other days…oh and how can I forget shopping and cleaning days on the weekends.  Sound familiar?  Not that I am complaining I love my life and my beautiful family, I just feel bad that I can barely find time to write and blog lately.

Sometimes I do question myself is this blogging really worth all the time and effort I am putting into this? I mean I know some of my family and few close friends are reading this and I’ve seen some great dishes made from my recipes…but on some days I feel that I might be just writing to myself…is anyone actually reading this?:)

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I guess I’ll start my today’s recipe with dear “Diary”:)  It’s been few days since I’ve been staying at home, since my older daughter has been running a fever, high fever.. she is exhausted, tired and so sick…my poor “baby munchkin” as I call her.  Well today is Tuesday and she is still sick…so we finally we took a short trip to our new doctor, who reassured us that everything is okay with her and that she just need to stay home for another few days.

After coming home from the doctor and taking a short trip to our favorite stop and shop…ofcourse to get some viatmin C (lemons) and some other goodies that can be eaten with tea (with lemon:), we also decided to try making something different with Sasha…since we were stuck home for the rest of the day anyway.  In the store I remembered that a while ago I stumbled upon a recipe of Cheesy Cauliflower Tater Tots, which looked pretty good and healthy.  After a short discussion with my sick munchkin and my refusal to make another cake:) we decided to give it a try!

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I didn’t remember the original list of ingredient and quite honestly did not have any intention sticking or even trying to find an original recipe…so this one is purely our own…but which turned out absolutely yummy!   I know it did because even Sergey was hesitant to try something that had cauliflower in it…and no potatoes…but then after eating about 3 of these, had asked for five more:))) so I guess it was both kids and man approved…well at least in our family! (P.S.  please ignore all of my run on sentences, spelling mistakes…it’s pretty late when I am writing this:)

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Ingredients

3/4 of Medium Cauliflower Head
1/2 Red Bell Pepper 
1/2 Green Bell Pepper 
1/2 Yellow Bell Pepper 
1/2 Purple Onion 
3 Medium Size Eggs or 2 Extra Large Eggs
1/3 Cup of Shredded Cheese Mix
2/3 Cups of Parmesan Cheese
2/3 Cups of Breadcrumbs
Garlic and Herbs to Taste

 

How to make Cheesy Cauliflower Tater Tots

1.  Open up your Cauliflower head and cut the stems out, leaving only flower buds.

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2.  There are few ways to cook cauliflower, the healthiest method would be to salute it.  We however decided to take the easy way out and just boiled it for 10 minutes.  However if you do want to go the better route of cooking it and making it more tasty you can do the other method listed below.

Place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan or a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the saute/roasting pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting.

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3.  While cauliflower is cooking you can chop your onions and your peppers.  We bought the pack where everything was already cut up in order to save us some time, but if you want to do it yourself…your food processor can help or a sharp knife if you good with it:).   The keys is to chop everything very very small.

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4.  Saute your onions first, then add the rest of the peppers and salute for a little longer about 10-15 minutes altogether.  I have seen other recipes where these vegetables are just added raw, but I personally do prefer onions and peppers slightly cooked for this recipe.

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5.  Once your veggies are ready, place them in a big bowl.  Then you can start adding your spices and cheese to it.  I didn’t have any fresh garlic at home, so I used freezes dried garlic…which is my second best alternative…but if you have fresh one…it’s better of course.  I added about 2 cloves, but you can add more according to your taste.

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6.  Then I added some  herbs, again no fresh greens were in my fridge at that point and we forgot to buy them when we went shopping so I used freeze dried cilantro.  You may add some parsley, chives and any other greens to your liking.  Again, if you have fresh ones it’s better.

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7.  Now it’s time for cheese.  Add 2/3 of a cup of shredded cheese mix or more…this will all depend how much cheese you want in your Tater Tots:)

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8.  Then add more cheese:) it’s cheesy Tater Tots after all:)  I added additional 2/3 of a cup of Parmesan Cheese.

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9.  Add  2/3 cups of bread crumbs, mine were already with spices…you can also leave extra breadcrumbs if you want your Tater Tots coated with crumbs when they bake.

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10.  It will start smelling really good at this point:)  but we are still missing our start of the show – Cauliflower.  Hopefully by now your cauliflower is ready (try not to overcook it…it still should be quite crunchy)!  Let it cool…

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11.  Now it’s time to get your sharp knife or a food processor and chop it up quite well.  Make sure you don’t have big pieces because it’ll be hard to form them.  Also, make sure you don’t puree your cauliflower if you decide to do it in a food processor…maybe only few pulses will do…and small batches at a time.  I decided not to risk overprotecting it and just chopped it all with a knife.  As you can see on the photo below…I still have few large pieces…try to make them as small as you can.

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12.  Once your cauliflower is ready add it to the bowl with other veggies and cheese and mix it all well.  In order for our mixture to stick together…let’s add some eggs.  I started with 2 eggs, but since my eggs were quite small I added 3 to my mixture.   If you see that your mixture is not sicking well together..then add another egg.  Mix everything well…add salt and pepper to taste.

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13.  Preheat your oven to 400F and start forming your Tater Tots on a non stick pan.  In the photo below you will see that I’ve tried using parchment paper (to prevent sticking)…this was a big mistake…because the mixture produced some liquid in the cooking process and the crust on my first batch was soft and not crunchy.  Don’t make this mistake…and use non-stick surface and oil it well.  I just used some cooking spray…but any oil will do.  Just spoon a table spoon of mixture into your hands and form an oval shape forms…you can also make them round or flat as a pancake:) use your imagination:)

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14.  Cook your Tater Tots in the oven for 25-45 minutes approximately turning them over half way through cooking.  Make sure they are not sticking to the pan, add some more oil if necessary.   I am eyeballing the cooking time because I made a mistake of using the parchment paper and my cooking time was slightly extended.  I would say just wait until each side has a nice golden crust and just try it:).  It supposed to be soft and juicy…make sure you don’t over cook it though…otherwise it will get too dry.

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15.  There are many sides you can serve these with…we really liked them with some sour cream…however they will also go well with ketchup or any other veggie dips.

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I hope you will enjoy this recipe:) I know it’s these were all gone from our fridge the same day we made them:)

Love,

Natalie

Cheesy Cauliflower Baked Tater Tots
 
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Cook time
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Cheesy Cauliflower Baked Tater Tots with onions and peppers.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Serves: 20-30 pieces
Ingredients
  • ¾ of Medium Cauliflower Head
  • ½ Red Bell Pepper
  • ½ Green Bell Pepper
  • ½ Yellow Bell Pepper
  • ½ Purple Onion
  • 3 Medium Size Eggs or 2 Extra Large Eggs
  • ⅓ Cup of Shredded Cheese Mix
  • ⅔ Cups of Parmesan Cheese
  • ⅔ Cups of Breadcrumbs
  • Garlic, Salt/Pepper and Herbs to Taste
Instructions
  1. Open up your Cauliflower head and cut the stems out, leaving only flower buds.
  2. Boil Cauliflower for 15 minutes or saute. To salute place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan or a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the saute/roasting pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting.
  3. While cauliflower is cooking you can chop your onions and your peppers, chop them very small or use your food processor to help you out.
  4. Saute your onions first, then add the rest of the peppers and salute for a little longer about 10-15 minutes altogether. I have seen other recipes where these vegetables are just added raw, but I personally do prefer onions and peppers slightly cooked for this recipe.
  5. Once your veggies are ready, place them in a big bowl. Then you can start adding your spices and cheese to it.
  6. Then add ⅔ cups of bread crumbs, mine were already with spices…you can also leave extra breadcrumbs if you want your Tater Tots coated with crumbs when they bake.
  7. Once your cauliflower is ready, cool it and then chop it really small. Make sure you don’t have big pieces because it’ll be hard to work with the mixture. Also, make sure you don’t puree your cauliflower if you decide to do it in a food processor…maybe only few pulses will do…and small batches at a time.
  8. Once your cauliflower is ready add it to the bowl with other veggies and cheese and mix it all well. In order for our mixture to stick together…let’s add some eggs. I started with 2 eggs, but since my eggs were quite small I added 3 to my mixture. If you see that your mixture is not sicking well together..then add another egg. Mix everything well…add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Preheat your oven to 400F and start forming your Tater Tots on a non stick pan. Do not use parchment paper, instead use non-stick pan and oil it well. Just spoon a table spoon of mixture into your hands and form an oval shape forms…you can also make them round or flat as a pancake:) use your imagination:)
  10. Cook your Tater Tots in the oven for 25-45 minutes approximately turning them over half way through cooking. Make sure they are not sticking to the pan, add some more oil if necessary. I am eyeballing the cooking time because I made a mistake of using the parchment paper and my cooking time was slightly extended. I would say just wait until each side has a nice golden crust and just try it:). It supposed to be soft and juicy…make sure you don’t over cook it though…otherwise it will get too dry.
  11. There are many sides you can serve these with…we really liked them with some sour cream…however they will also go well with ketchup or any other veggie dips.
  12. Enjoy!

 

 

Tomato Cheese Omlet

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As the summer has passed by and most of my friends held the last BBQ’s of the season, I came to realization that with amount of delicious food I’ve have tried over the summer it’s time to cut on calories and start eating healthier.  I am starting a new journey filled with working out more often, eating less, sleeping more and taking care of myself better.  This morning I started with my favorite AM Yoga by GAIAM.  Then followed by some nice stretching and 45 minute cardio on my elliptical trainer.

For a well deserved protein breakfast, I decided to make an omlet with tomatoes and a little bit of cheese.  I also tried eliminating sugar from my black cup of tea (I rarely drink coffee).  This whole breakfast is only about 235 calories which included: 1/2 a large tomato (15 calories); 2 eggs (140 calories); 1/8 cup of cheese (55 calories); 2 tablespoons of milk (18 calories), a little but of sprayed butter for the pan (15 calories).  Overall very filling and delicious.  I know majority of your don’t need step by step to make an omlet, but I know I have some readers who do…so this is for you.

Ingredients:

2 Organic Brown Eggs
1/8 of Shredded Mexican Cheese
2 Table Spoons of Whole Milk
Freeze Dried Chives/Salt/Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of butter or PAM Spray
 

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How to make tomato cheese omlet:

1.  Wash and dice half of your tomato, if you are using cherry tomatoes cut them in half

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2.  Break your eggs in a bowl and wisk well, then add 2 tablespoons of milk and mix again.  Finally add you diced up tomatoes in the mixture.

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3.  Heat up a small or average size pan, add a little bit of butter or spray it with PAM lightly.  Pour your egg/tomato/milk mixture and using a spatula keep moving the sides of the omlet for all the liquid to settle.  This will make this omlet cook faster and prevent the buttom of it from getting burned.

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4.  Add your salt, pepper and chives to you mixture right before it sets completely and sprinkle it with cheese.  Turn off the gas and then cover the pan with lid, let it stay for few minutes for the cheese to melt.  The finer the grated cheese the faster it will take for it to melt, this is why finely shredded cheese works best.

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5.  Your omlet is ready, carefully remove it from the pan and put in on the plate.  I turned out very fluffy and delicious. I served with a cup of freshly brewed loose black tea.

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Now that breakfast it over. I have to admit it kept my hunger at bay until lunch…and since I am training to put an end to snacking between meals…overall I am definitely having another one of these omlets again this week.

I hope you like it too…what do you enjoy eating for breakfast?

Natalie

Tomato Cheese Omlet
 
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Cook time
Total time
 
Tomato and Cheese Omlet
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 2 Organic Brown Eggs
  • ⅛ of Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • 2 Table Spoons of Whole Milk
  • Freeze Dried Chives/Salt/Pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon of butter or PAM Spray
Instructions
  1. Wash and dice half of your tomato, if you are using cherry tomatoes cut them in half.
  2. Break your eggs in a bowl and wisk well, then add 2 tablespoons of milk and mix again. Finally add you diced up tomatoes in the mixture.
  3. Heat up a small or average size pan, add a little bit of butter or spray it with PAM lightly. Pour your egg/tomato/milk mixture and using a spatula keep moving the sides of the omlet for all the liquid to settle. This will make this omlet cook faster and prevent the buttom of it from getting burned.
  4. Add your salt, pepper and chives to you mixture right before it sets completely and sprinkle it with cheese. Turn off the gas and then cover the pan with lid, let it stay for few minutes for the cheese to melt. The finer the grated cheese the faster it will take for it to melt, this is why finely shredded cheese works best.
  5. Your omlet is ready, carefully remove it from the pan and put in on the plate. I turned out very fluffy and delicious. I served with a cup of freshly brewed loose black tea.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 235

 

Smoked Salmon “Breakfast Salad”

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I love salads, I can eat them for breakfast…lunch…dinner…snack…you name it:)  One morning I’ve decided to spice up my usual egg/smoked salmon breakfast and make a “Breakfast Salad” with these ingredients.  Of course you can enjoy this salad any time of the day though and it’s full of vitamins, protein and how can we forget a good serving a fish:).  I know I have enjoyed this breakfast:) I hope you will too!

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Ingredients:
 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
1/2 of Fresh Avocado
1/2 cup of Pea Sprouts
1 Medium Cucumber
2 Cups of Mixed Greens
1 Teaspoon of Silvered Almonds
1 Teaspoon of Fried Onions
4-6 Slices of Smoked Salmon
2 Tablespoon of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 Table Spoons of Honey Mustard Dressing
 

How to make Smoked Salmon “Breakfast Salad”:

1.  Wash your mixed greens and add them to a bowl.

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2.  Wash the cucumber and cut it up in small pieces.

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3.  Peel your eggs and cut them up in 4 pieces.

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4.  Add the above ingredients to you salad bowl, you can either arrange it nicely or simply toss it in.

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5.  Cut up your avocado as small as you  like and add it to your salad.

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6.  Add pea sprouts to the salad, make sure to wash them before hand.

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7.  Add all previously cut ingredients along with silvered almonds and/or fried crispy onions (I usually buy them in the store).

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8.  Shred some good quality cheddar cheese and add it in.

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9.  Then add the remaining ingredients along with your smoked salmon, which can either be cut up in small pieces or simply put on top.

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10.  Now you are ready to plate your salad.  Simply add dressing and enjoy!  I liked honey mustard with this salad but I am sure any dressing including just some mayo/olive oil mix will work just as well.

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Love,

Natalie

Smoked Salmon "Breakfast Salad"
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Delicious breakfast salad with smoked salmon and eggs.
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
  • ½ of Fresh Avocado
  • ½ cup of Pea Sprouts
  • 1 Medium Cucumber
  • 2 Cups of Mixed Greens
  • 1 Teaspoon of Silvered Almonds
  • 1 Tablespoon of Fried Onions
  • 4-6 Slices of Smoked Salmon
  • 2 Tablespoons of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons of Honey Mustard Dressing
Instructions
  1. Wash your mixed greens and add them to a bowl.
  2. Wash the cucumber and cut it up in small pieces
  3. Peel your eggs and cut them up in 4 pieces.
  4. Add the above ingredients to you salad bowl, you can either arrange it nicely or simply toss it in.
  5. Cut up your avocado as small as you like and add it to your salad.
  6. Add pea sprouts to the salad, make sure to wash them before hand.
  7. Add all previously cut ingredients along with silvered almonds and/or fried crispy onions (I usually buy them in the store).
  8. Shred some good quality cheddar cheese and add it in.
  9. Then add the remaining ingredients along with your smoked salmon, which can either be cut up in small pieces or simply put on top.
  10. Now you are ready to plate your salad. Simply add dressing and enjoy! I liked honey mustard with this salad but I am sure any dressing including just some mayo/olive oil mix will work just as well.

 

Tex-Mex Soup

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The recipe of this soup goes almost two years back for me and I am sure even longer for my good friend Rita who has shared this amazing cup of goodness during our trip upstate with OT’s and PT’s.  Ever since I have made this soup on several occasions and it’s been a hit every time.

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I have to admit initially when I saw a list of the ingredients, I was a little shocked and couldn’t believe how all of them would work together…but they did!  Ofcourse nothing in this soup says “diet”…it has cheese and tortilla chips and a large load of cream cheese…but it’s so good!  My daughter loves this soup and every time I make it…she asks to have it for lunch and then dinner again.  I mean this recipe makes a large pot of soup, so if you are cooking just for two of you may consider decreasing the portions of ingredients.  We however, finished it all within three days:)

Ingredients:

Ingredients for the Chicken Stock (avoid this step if you buy ready made broth and cooked chicken)

5 Dried Bay Leaves
1 lb of Pieces of skinless chicken (I prefer natural or organic if available)
1/2 of medium onion
1 Table Spoon of Dried Parsley
1/2 Table Spoon of Vegetta Seasoning (try to get the one with no MSG Added)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
 
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Ingredients for the Soup:
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced green peppers (original recipe calls for it, I however avoided them)
1 tablespoon garlic
2 table spoons of vegetable (to saute)
1 pack taco seasoning
1 pack ranch seasoning
8 oz. salsa (if you like your soup spicy choose spicy salsa, I bought very mild type for kids)
8 oz. tomato paste or tomato sauce
1 cup of corn (either fresh, canned or frozen)
1 can black beans
1 can of kidney beans
8 oz. cream cheese
tortilla chips and Mexican cheese mix to serve

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1.  Wash your chicken and make your chicken based stock.  Click here for step by step instructions how to make it.  You can also just replace this step and buy ready made chicken stock and cooked chicken.

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2.  Once your chicken is ready take it out and dice it up.  If you buy ready made broth and chicken, just dice up your chicken and heat up the broth.

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3.  Saute the onions and peppers in the vegetable oil.  My kids don’t like peppers int their soup…so I didn’t add any, but you can if you like.

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4.  Drain your beans and add them to the bowl.  Take out your salsa.  Cut up your corn if you bought it fresh.

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5.  Peel garlic and either dice it up really small or simply use garlic press to add it to your soup.

7.  Add ALL ingredients, including Ranch and Taco seasoning to you soup EXCEPT for cream cheese.   Bring to a little boil (until the edges are sizzling or slightly bubbling), on medium-high heat.

8.  Then bring heat to low and let simmer for additional 20 minutes.  Taste your soup and adjust salt/pepper to your liking.

9.  Put cream cheese in a separate soup bowl, and add a cup of the hot liquid from the soup. Gently mix it up in the bowl until the cream cheese is melted. Add more liquid if needed. Then add that mixture to the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and stir.

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10.  Serve this soup with tortilla chips or any other bread chips and sprinkle it with your favorite cheese.

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I hope you like it.  Let me know what you think and please share your favorite soup recipes as well…I am always on the look out for new ideas:)

Love,

Natalie

Tex-Mex Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Hearty hot soup with beans, corn and other veggies.
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Serves: 12-14
Ingredients
  • Ingredients for the Chicken Stock (avoid this step if you buy ready made broth and cooked chicken)
  • 5 Dried Bay Leaves
  • 1 lb of Pieces of skinless chicken (I prefer natural or organic if available)
  • ½ of medium onion
  • 1 Table Spoon of Dried Parsley
  • ½ Table Spoon of Vegetta Seasoning (try to get the one with no MSG Added)
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • Ingredients for the Soup:
  • ½ cup diced onions
  • ½ cup diced green peppers (original recipe calls for it, I however avoided them)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 2 table spoons of vegetable (to saute)
  • 1 pack taco seasoning
  • 1 pack ranch seasoning
  • 8 oz. salsa (if you like your soup spicy choose spicy salsa, I bought very mild type for kids)
  • 8 oz. tomato paste or tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of corn (either fresh, canned or frozen)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • tortilla chips and Mexican cheese mix to serve
Instructions
  1. Wash your chicken and make your chicken based stock. Open a separate link on this page for step by step instructions if you need it.
  2. Once your chicken is ready take it out and dice it up. If you buy ready made broth and chicken, just dice up your chicken and heat up the broth.
  3. Saute the onions and peppers in the vegetable oil. My kids don’t like peppers int their soup…so I didn’t add any, but you can if you like.
  4. Drain your beans and add them to the bowl. Take out your salsa. Cut up your corn if you bought it fresh.
  5. Peel garlic and either dice it up really small or simply use garlic press to add it to your soup.
  6. Add ALL ingredients, including Ranch and Taco seasoning to you soup EXCEPT for cream cheese. Bring to a little boil (until the edges are sizzling or slightly bubbling), on medium-high heat.
  7. Then bring heat to low and let simmer for additional 20 minutes. Taste your soup and adjust salt/pepper to your liking.
  8. Then bring heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Put cream cheese in a separate soup bowl, and add a cup of the hot liquid from the soup. Gently mix it up in the bowl until the cream cheese is melted. Add more liquid if needed. Then add that mixture to the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and stir.
  9. Serve this soup with tortilla chips or any other bread chips and sprinkle it with your favorite cheese.

 

Sharlotka – Russian Apple Cake

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My daughter has been attending a summer music program here in Northport for the past two months and this morning she had her first violin performance.  She did great and I am so proud of her work and music accomplishments!

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To celebrate this event and well my first day of two weeks of vacation, I’ve decided to make Sharlotka or in other words Russian Apple Cake.   Sharlotka is a well known sponge cake usually made with Green Apples such as Granny Smith.  There are so many different variations of it, but all of them usually include eggs, sugar and flour.   I’ve seen various recipes for this dish online, but I decided to stick to our family’s favorite.  They key for this melt in your mouth recipe is to add  a little bit of sour cream, making this cake a lot more moist and just a dab sweet.

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Ingredients:

5 large apples (Granny Smith)
9 eggs
1  1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 cups of flour
 
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How to make Sharlotka (Apple Cake):
 

1.  Wash and peel your apples.  I prefer Granny Smith apples, but you may choose different ones to your liking.  These apples are a bit sour, and I don’t like making this cake very sweet.  If you like it on the sweet side, just use sweet apples and add more sugar.

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2.  Cut up your apples and remove the core.

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3.  Using mandoline slicer cut up the apple pieces into thin even slices.  You can also simply cut them up in small pieces.

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4.  Break all your eggs in a bowl.  I used medium size egg, if you have smaller size or larger size eggs…you may need to slightly change the quantity.

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5.  Then add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and mix well until frothy.

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6.  Then add 1/2 cup of Sour Cream and 1 teaspoon of baking powder, mix again.

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7.  Finally add 2 cups of flour slowly and mix, until well incorporated.

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8.  Use a large enough cake pan and line it with parchment paper.

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9.   Layer apples on the bottom of the pan and then add some batter.

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10.  Repeat the process until the pan is filled.

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11.  Preheat your oven to 350F and bake the cake for 60 minutes.  Make sure to check that the toothpick will come out clean.  Baking time may vary from oven to oven.

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12.  Once the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and let it cool.  Then transfer the cake on the plate and dust it with some powdered sugar.

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Enjoy!

Natalie

Sharlotka - Russian Apple Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Just a tad sweet, Russian dessert made with fresh Granny Smith apples.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Russian
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 5 large apples (Granny Smith)
  • 9 eggs
  • 1½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup of sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 cups of flour
Instructions
  1. Wash and peel your apples. I prefer Granny Smith apples, but you may choose different ones to your liking. These apples are a bit sour, and I don’t like making this cake very sweet. If you like it on the sweet side, just use sweet apples and add more sugar.
  2. Cut up your apples and remove the core.
  3. Using mandoline slicer cut up the apple pieces into thin even slices. You can also simply cut them up in small pieces.
  4. Break all your eggs in a bowl. I used medium size egg, if you have smaller size or larger size eggs…you may need to slightly change the quantity.
  5. Then add 1½ cups of sugar and mix well until frothy.
  6. Then add ½ cup of Sour Cream and 1 teaspoon of baking powder, mix again.
  7. Finally add 2 cups of flour slowly and mix, until well incorporated.
  8. Use a large enough cake pan and line it with parchment paper.
  9. Layer apples on the bottom of the pan and then add some batter.
  10. Repeat the process until the pan is filled.
  11. Preheat your oven to 350F and bake the cake for 60 minutes. Make sure to check that the toothpick will come out clean. Baking time may vary from oven to oven.
  12. Once the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Then transfer the cake on the plate and dust it with some powdered sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Salami with Almonds

Chocolate Salame

Chocolate Salame

Chocolate salami is an Italian dessert made from dark chocolate, broken cookies, butter, eggs and a bit of port wine or rum (which were eliminated for this recipe, since kids will also be eating this dessert). The dessert became popular across Europe and elsewhere, often losing alcohol as an ingredient along the way. Traditional chocolate salami is made with bitter cocoa and it’s a real temptation for adults as well as for kids, to whom you can present it too using the curious name of the Vikings’ Salami. In the 70’s, in fact, this recipe was published with that peculiar name in a kids book called “Manuale di Nonna Papera”.

Chocolate salami is not a meat product. The appellation “salami” stems from physical resemblance. Like salami, chocolate salami is formed as a long cylinder and is sliced across into discs for serving. These discs are a brown, chocolaty matrix (like the red meat of salami) peppered with bright bits of cookie (like the white flecks of fat in salami). Some varieties also contain chopped nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts and may be shaped like truffles.

This simple, yet so tasty dessert brings me tons of sweet memories from my childhood.  I know my own kids fell in love with this desert already and I hope yours will do too! Below you will find my take on this recipe, but in reality you can change it up and make it yours…simply by adding different variety of biscuits, dried fruit, various nuts…all to your tasting.  Enjoy!

Sources:
Chocolate Salami.  Retrieved July 3, 2014.
 

Chocolate Salame Ingredients

Ingredients:

300 g of Tea Biscuits
100 g of Fresh Almonds
2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
2-3 Table Spoons of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
 

How to make Chocolate Salami:

1.  Take out butter from refrigerator and let it soften up a little at room temperature.

2.  Add 100 g of almonds to food processor and chop them up.

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3.  It should be very finely processed into powder like texture.

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4.  Now take 2/3 of all your cookies and process them as well.

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5.  Combine processed almonds and biscuits in a bowl.

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6.  Break up the rest of your tea biscuits with your hands into fine small pieces.

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7.  Now you are ready to prepare your chocolate mixture.  First cut up two sticks of butter in a small pot.

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8.  Heat the butter up on low heat, until the butter is almost melted (don’t overheat).

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9.  Then add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and 3 table spoons of coco powder.

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10.   Mix the ingredients until well incorporated, take off the heat and then let it cool slightly.

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11.  Add the chocolate mixture to the processed almond/biscuit mix.

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12.  Mix well using a spoon, until well incorporated.

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13.  Then add the broken up biscuit pieces to the mixture and mix again.

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14.  Take out food wrapping paper or parchment paper and place all the ingredients to form oval or round long shape.  Wrap it tightly and place in a freezer for at least 4-5 hours or overnight to firm up.

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15.  Once firm take it out of the freezer and cut it up in pieces.  If not completed consumed:) it should be stored in a freezer.

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Enjoy!

Love,

Natalie

Chocolate Salami with Almonds
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Chocolate Salami made with tea biscuits and almonds
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 300 g of Tea Biscuits
  • 100 g of Fresh Almonds
  • 2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
  • 1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2-3 Table Spoons of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Instructions
  1. Take out butter from refrigerator and let it soften up a little at room temperature.
  2. Add 100 g of almonds to food processor and chop them up.
  3. It should be very finely processed into powder like texture.
  4. Now take ⅔ of all your cookies and process them as well.
  5. Combine processed almonds and biscuits in a bowl.
  6. Break up the rest of your tea biscuits with your hands into fine small pieces.
  7. Now you are ready to prepare your chocolate mixture. First cut up two sticks of butter in a small pot.
  8. Heat the butter up on low heat, until the butter is almost melted (don’t overheat).
  9. Then add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and 3 table spoons of coco powder.
  10. Mix the ingredients until well incorporated, take off the heat and then let it cool slightly.
  11. Add the chocolate mixture to the processed almond/biscuit mix.
  12. Mix well using a spoon, until well incorporated.
  13. Then add the broken up biscuit pieces to the mixture and mix again.
  14. Take out food wrapping paper or parchment paper and place all the ingredients to form oval or round long shape. Wrap it tightly and place in a freezer for at least 4-5 hours or overnight to firm up.
  15. Once firm take it out of the freezer and cut it up in pieces. If not completed consumed:) it should be stored in a freezer.

 

Snickers Caramel Cheesecake

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There are number of all “American” things that most sweet tooth lovers enjoy…that is chocolate and well…cheesecake.    Combination of those two ingredients topped with peanuts and caramel syrup makes this desert simply irresistable.  I admit, I was never a fan of cheesecake…but perhaps this version will now change my mind.  I wouldn’t change anything about it, it came out just perfect.  I hope you will enjoy it too!

The main inspiration for this cake was Snickers and Peanuts.  Ofcourse being curious me, I went to my old friend google to learn more about it and thought to share with you what I found.

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“The Snickers Candy Bar is a chewy peanut butter nougat and caramel and roasted peanut topping candy bar covered in dairy milk chocolate made and marketed by Mars, Inc, a US based private corporation that is one of the world’s largest food and confectionary suppliers.   Frank and Ethel Mars, the founders of Mars, Inc created the very successful Milky Way chocolate bar in the early 1920s, which was America’s most popular candy bar between 1927 and 1929 allowing the company to expand and develop new recipes for chocolate candy. The Snickers bar took over three years to develop and wasn’t released to the market until 1930. Frank and Ethel also owned a farm that bred race horses in Tennessee, some of which were regular sweepstake winners, including Ethel’s favorite, a horse named Snickers.  ”Who would think this chocolate bar was named after a horse?”:)

Sadly the horse died a month or two before the new product was to be released, an since a new name hadn’t been settled on, and the farm in any event had been named after the first chocolate bar, the Milky Way Farm, it seemed fitting that the next chocolate bar should take its name from the farm. By all accounts Ethel was delighted that the name of her favorite horse would be chosen.

Very little changed with the Snickers brand during its first forty years of production, except in 1968 when Mars were inspired to produce the Snickers mini candy bar which sold in bags of a dozen or more and were labeled ‘fun size’. Fun size candy bars were heavily marketed at parents concerned about the sugar and fat content of regular size chocolate bars as the ideal accompaniment to school lunch boxes and family snacks for the kitchen pantry.”

Sources:
1.  History of Snickers Candy Bar.  Retrieved May 20, 2012.

 

Ingredients:
 
Crust Ingredients
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or ready made package)
1 stick unsalted butter (melted)
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
 

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Filling for the Cheesecake
3 (11.5 oz) packages of cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¾ cup heavy cream
 

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Topping
20 Mini Snickers bars (cut into fourths)
1/3 cup roasted peanuts (chopped)
¼ cup caramel syrup

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How to make Snickers Caramel Cheesecake.

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (that is to pre-cook your crust before you actually bake your cake).  Then wrap a 9 inch spring form pan tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil to prevent leaks when using the water bath.  I used double layer on the outside and it worked like magic no leaks!:)

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2. Melt one stick of butter in the microwave and add on top of 2 cups of crackers.  I used ready made mix, but you can simply blend them using your food processor.  You will need about two cups of crumbs.  In a medium bowl add your crumbs, melted stick of butter 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

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3.  Mix together the crust ingredients until well combined.

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4.  Pour crumb mixture on the buttom of your spring form pan.  Make sure you flatten and even out the layer, I used the backside of small measuring cup to flatten crust out.  It should come about once inch higher on the sides of your spring form.  Once ready, place it into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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5.  While you cooking the cheesecake filling, boil a large pot of water, which will be used later for baking in a water bath. In a large bowl combine cream cheese and sugar and beat with a mixer until smooth.  I used Whipped Cream Cheese for my recipe to make this cake more airy and light.

6.  Crack all your eggs in a large measuring cup.  It will make blending process easier when blending eggs next.

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7.  Add the eggs one at a time (while mixing) until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl with spatula in between each egg.

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8.  Once cream cheese and eggs are well mixed, add the heavy cream and vanilla to the cream cheese mixture and mix until smooth.

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9.  Your batter is ready.  You can pour the batter over the prepared crust in the spring form pan.

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10.  Place the spring form pan into a larger pan and pour the boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.

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11.  Now you are ready to bake your cake.  Place it into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes (depending on your oven).  You will know your cake is ready when the edges will appear to be set but the center will still have some jiggle to it.

12.  One it’s ready, close the oven door, turn off the heat, and let the cheesecake rest in the cooling oven for one hour. After one hour, carefully remove the cheesecake from the water bath and place it into a cooling rack to cool completely. Once it has cooled, place it into the refrigerator overnight.

13.  In order to remove the cake from the spring form, carefully run the knife around spring form edges (this will prevent your crust from breaking).  Finally release the spring form and gently place the caking on a cake platter (remove the foil gently from the buttom of the cake).

14.  Decorate your cake by chopping small bite size Snicker Bars and roughly chopped roasted peanuts.  Finally pour some good quality caramel syrup on the top.

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 Enjoy!

This recipe has been adopted from www.BlogChef.net.  Thank you very much to Bobby for inspiration!

Natalie

Snickers Caramel Cheesecake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Snickers Caramel Cheesecake topped with extra peanuts and caramel syrup.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • Crust Ingredients
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or ready made package)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (melted)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Filling for the Cheesecake
  • 3 (11.5 oz) packages of cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Topping
  • 20 Mini Snickers bars (cut into fourths)
  • ⅓ cup roasted peanuts (chopped)
  • ¼ cup caramel syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (that is to pre-cook your crust before you actually bake your cake). Then wrap a 9 inch spring form pan tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil to prevent leaks when using the water bath.
  2. Melt one stick of butter in the microwave and add on top of 2 cups of crackers. I used ready made mix, but you can simply blend them using your food processor. You will need about two cups of crumbs. In a medium bowl add your crumbs, melted stick of butter ½ teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Mix together the crust ingredients until well combined.
  4. Pour crumb mixture on the buttom of your spring form pan. Make sure you flatten and even out the layer, I used the backside of small measuring cup to flatten crust out. It should come about once inch higher on the sides of your spring form. Once ready, place it into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. While you cooking the cheesecake filling, boil a large pot of water, which will be used later for baking in a water bath. In a large bowl combine cream cheese and sugar and beat with a mixer until smooth. I used Whipped Cream Cheese for my recipe to make this cake more airy and light.
  6. Crack all your eggs in a large measuring cup. It will make blending process easier when blending eggs next.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time (while mixing) until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl with spatula in between each egg.
  8. Once cream cheese and eggs are well mixed, add the heavy cream and vanilla to the cream cheese mixture and mix until smooth.
  9. Your batter is ready. You can pour the batter over the prepared crust in the spring form pan.
  10. Place the spring form pan into a larger pan and pour the boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.
  11. Now you are ready to bake your cake. Place it into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes (depending on your oven). You will know your cake is ready when the edges will appear to be set but the center will still have some jiggle to it.
  12. One it’s ready, close the oven door, turn off the heat, and let the cheesecake rest in the cooling oven for one hour. After one hour, carefully remove the cheesecake from the water bath and place it into a cooling rack to cool completely. Once it has cooled, place it into the refrigerator overnight.
  13. In order to remove the cake from the spring form, carefully run the knife around spring form edges (this will prevent your crust from breaking). Finally release the spring form and gently place the caking on a cake platter (remove the foil gently from the buttom of the cake).
  14. Decorate your cake by chopping small bite size Snicker Bars and roughly chopped roasted peanuts. Finally pour some good quality caramel syrup on the top.

 

 

Baked Eggs in Bacon Cup, served on Zucchini/Potatoes Latkes with cream Fraiche

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I have recently made an amazing discovery at our local supermarket, something so smooth, creamy and that pretty much goes with everything:) well almost with everything.  Have you guessed what it is yet?  It’s called “Cream Fraiche”.    Have you ever tried it?  Well I got it initially to replace sour cream for one of my soups, but then the whole family loved it’s taste and we have done number of replacements ever since:)

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Crème fraiche is a thinner form of sour cream first developed by the French. It has a slight hold and tanginess because it contains bacterial cultures, although the amount of bacteria is minimal when compared to sour cream. This cream can be used as a topping, in sauces, or in a variety of other applications, and many people prefer it to the standard and more commonly available sour cream because of its creamy texture.

One of the advantages of crème fraiche is that it doesn’t “break” or become unstable when added to sauces because of its high fat content. Cooks who are making thick cream soups, Hungarian Goulash, or any type of sauce that needs to be thickened with cultured cream often find that it is a good choice, and works better than sour cream. Some people also whip it with a little powdered sugar and vanilla, then ladle the cream over fresh berries or any kind of fruit, or use it as a sweet filling for crepes.

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There are several different methods for making crème fraiche. In France, where it is most available, the heavy cream used to make it is unpasteurized. It therefore contains natural bacteria, and when allowed to sit at room temperature or to “age,” it cultures on its own. In the US, the pasteurization process required of most dairy products means that the cream must be made in a different manner.

 

Sources:
1.  What is Creme Fraiche?  Retrieved May 4, 2014
2.  Cream Fraiche Picture.  Retrieved May 4, 2014
 

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Ingredients:

Ingredients for Zucchini Pancakes
 
1 Medium Zucchini
1 Large Potato
1 Egg
1-2 Table Spoons of Flour
1-2 Table Spoons of Grated Cheese
2 Table Spoons of Vegetable Oil for cooking
1 teaspoon of Cream Fraiche (on the side-optional)
Salt/Pepper to taste
 
Ingredients for Baked Eggs in Bacon Cups
 
5 Pieces of Bacon
5 Eggs
2 Table Spoons of Shredded Cheese
Non Stick Spray/Extra Butter for Muffin Tins
Scallions (+other spices), Salt and Pepper to Taste
 

How to make Baked Eggs in Bacon Cup and Zucchini/Potatoes Latkes:

1.  Wash your zucchini and trim the ends.  Shred your zucchini on a large shredded and place in a bowl.

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2.  Shred your choice of cheese or just buy shredded cheese already, up to you:)  I really like the taste of Aged White Sharp Cheddar Cheese we buy from Costco, I use it for cooking all the time.

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3.  Peel your potato and microwave it for about 2 minutes  on each side.  Since it takes much longer for potato to cook and you will be mixing two ingredients together so your potato can’t be raw.  You can also boil it, just let it be a little undercooked and firm.  Once it is done, add it to the bowl of your shredded zucchini along with 1 egg, 1 table spoon of flour, shredded sharp cheese and salt pepper to taste.

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4.  Cook the bacon slices by frying them for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

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5.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a metal muffin pan with cooking spray. Taking one slice of bacon at a time, wrap the inside of a muffin cup to create a ring. Repeat with the remaining slices of bacon.  Carefully crack one egg into each bacon lined cup.

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6.  Sprinkle each egg  scallions, cheese, salt and pepper.  Bake the egg cups for 10-15 minutes until the centers have set. You can adjust the cooking time based on how you prefer the consistency of your egg yolks.

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7.  While your eggs are baking, use the pan with left over bacon fat and make your potato, zucchini pancakes.  Just add one table spoon of filling to a hot pan, flatten it a little with spatula and fry on both sides until golden (about 2-3 minutes on each side).

8.  Once your eggs are ready you can assemble your plate.  Place one pancake, top it with baked eggs and put a dab of Cream Fraiche on the side and some fresh greens or a salad.  You can always substitute Cream Fraiche with sour cream.

Enjoy!

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Baked Eggs in Bacon Cup, served on Zucchini/Potatoes Latkes with cream Fraiche
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Baked Eggs with cheese and herbs in Bacon Cup, served on Zucchini/Potatoes Latkes on the side with cream Fraiche.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • Ingredients for Zucchini Pancakes
  • 1 Medium Zucchini
  • 1 Large Potato
  • 1 Egg
  • 1-2 Table Spoons of Flour
  • 1-2 Table Spoons of Grated Cheese
  • 2 Table Spoons of Vegetable Oil for cooking
  • 1 teaspoon of Cream Fraiche (on the side-optional)
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Ingredients for Baked Eggs in Bacon Cups
  • 5 Pieces of Bacon
  • 5 Eggs
  • 2 Table Spoons of Shredded Cheese
  • Non Stick Spray/Extra Butter for Muffin Tins
  • Scallions (+other spices), Salt and Pepper to Taste
Instructions
  1. Wash your zucchini and trim the ends. Shred your zucchini on a large shredded and place in a bowl.
  2. Shred your choice of cheese or just buy shredded cheese already, up to you.
  3. Peel your potato and microwave it for about 2 minutes on each side. Since it takes much longer for potatoes to cook and you will be mixing two ingredients together so your potato can’t be raw. You can also boil it, just let it be a little undercooked and firm. Once it is done, add it to the bowl of your shredded zucchini along with 1 egg, 1 table spoon of flour, shredded sharp cheese and salt pepper to taste
  4. Cook the bacon slices by frying them for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a metal muffin pan with cooking spray. Taking one slice of bacon at a time, wrap the inside of a muffin cup to create a ring. Repeat with the remaining slices of bacon. Carefully crack one egg into each bacon lined cup
  6. Sprinkle each egg scallions, cheese, salt and pepper. Bake the egg cups for 10-15 minutes until the centers have set. You can adjust the cooking time based on how you prefer the consistency of your egg yolks
  7. While your eggs are baking, use the pan with left over bacon fat and make your potato, zucchini pancakes. Just add one table spoon of filling to a hot pan, flatten it a little with spatula and fry on both sides until golden (about 2-3 minutes on each side).
  8. Once your eggs are ready you can assemble your plate. Place one pancake, top it with baked eggs and put a dab of Cream Fraiche on the side and some fresh greens or a salad. You can always substitute Cream Fraiche with sour cream.
  9. Enjoy!

 

Goat Cheese Salad

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Who knew that something so simple could taste so good? Goat cheese, with its pristine white color and distinct flavor is one of the most amazing foods in the world — a humble basic for some, a gourmet delight for others.

Over many centuries, the goats have been raised for their milk, meat, skin. The Chinese used goat fur for their calligraphy brushes. According to the legend, Zeus was fed goat’s milk becoming the food of god. This milk has been used for a long time as a substitute for breast milk.  Settling down around 7 000 BC, the prehistoric nomadic hunter created the first goat cheeses, becoming the forerunner of all cheeses.  During the Greek and Roman civilisation, goats adapted well to arid areas of the Mediterranean. Goats being wanderers arrived in ancient Gaul (modern France) long before the Romans.  When Charles Martel halted the advance of the Moors in France at Poitiers (732 AD), many Saracens remained in the area and continued to raise goats.  In the Middle Ages goat cheeses was used as money as well as food for the pligrims on the roads of Saint Jacques de Compestello.  The pasteurisation discovered in 1857 by Emile Duclaux was a wonderful innovation for cheese making.

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The first goat cheeses were marketed in France in 1935, with the safety guaranteed for the consumer.  The dairy Soignon was founded in 1895 in the Poitou-Charentes region, that became one of the cradles of goat cheese along with the Centre and Rhônes Alpes regions.

Authentic, there are 120 sorts of goat cheeses available in many shapes and flavours. Thanks to the various breeds of goats, recipes and maturations, each cheeses has its own taste.  Variety! Goat cheeses can range in taste from strong and pungent, to delicate and mild. They come in many shapes: cone, disc, wheel, “button,” the log-like bûche (say: boosh) and the puck-like crottin (say: cro-TAN). They delight with textures from creamy to crumbly to semi-firm. They are sold fresh, aged or marinated in olive oil or red wine. They may get coated in herbs (lavender is fantastic), black pepper, edible flowers and yes, even chocolate.

Compared to cow’s milk products such as cream cheese, goat cheese is lower in fat, calories and cholesterol. It also provides more calcium than cream cheese. Even though goat cheese has fewer calories, it has a full, rich and creamy flavor. Goat cheeses at Whole Foods Market® are all natural with no artificial additives or preservatives.

Sources:
1.  Goat Cheese. Retrieved April 20, 2014.
2. Whole Foods – Goat Cheese.  Retrieved April 20, 2014.
 

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Ingredients:
1-2 Cups of Mixed Greens
1/4 of Fresh Avocado
1 Table Spoon of Dried Berries Mix
1 Cucumber
4-5 Small Cherry Size Tomatoes
1 Table Spoon of Shaved Parmegioano Reggiano Cheese
3-5 Table Spoons of Goat Cheese
2 Table Spoons of Chopped Pecans
1 Table Spoon of Dried or Fresh Herbs Mix
 
For Dressing: 
1 table spoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Italian Saba
1 teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar
 

How to make Goat Cheese Salad:

1.  Wash and dry your mixed greens and plate them.

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2.  Wash your cucumbers and tomatoes.

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3.  Cut up tomatoes and cucumbers up to your liking.  I like them on the small side:)

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4.  Take out chopped your shaved Parmesan Reggiano cheese and dried mixed berries mix.

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5.  Cut up 1/4 of your avocado…or more:) up to you.

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6.  Add cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, dried berries and cheese to your mixed greens.  Isn’t it so pretty and vibrant?:)

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7.  Take out your chopped pecans or walnuts, now it’s time to form our Goat Cheese Balls.

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7.  Add some spiced to your nut mix.  I added some freeze dried cilantro and scallions.

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8.  Using an ice cream scoop, scoop some goat cheese and roll it in the nuts mixture…forming nice round balls.

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9.  Now that your goat cheese balls are ready, you can add them to your salad or just serve as an appetizer on their own.

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10.  Before adding cheese balls to your salad add some dressing and mix it up well.  I used 1 table spoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Italian Saba, 1 teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar mix as a dressing for this salad.

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I hope you like this recipe.  Please feel free to join us on Facebookand share this page with your friends and family.  Looking forward to hearing back from you guys!

Enjoy!

Natalie

Creamy Split Pea Soup

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Pea soup or split pea soup is soup made typically from dried peas, such as the split pea. It is, with variations, a part of the cuisine of many cultures. It is greyish-green or yellow in color depending on the regional variety of peas used.

Pea soup has been eaten since antiquity; it is mentioned in Aristophanes’ The Birds, and according to one source “the Greeks and Romans were cultivating this legume about 500 to 400 BC. During that era, vendors in the streets of Athens were selling hot pea soup.

Eating fresh “garden” peas before they were matured was a luxurious innovation of the Early Modern period: by contrast with the coarse, traditional peasant fare of pease pottage, Potage Saint-Germain, made of fresh peas and other fresh greens braised in light stock and pureed, was an innovation sufficiently refined that it could be served to Louis XIV of France, for whose court at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye it was named, ca 1660-80.

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In the United States, pea soup is merely one of many familiar kinds of soup. “Pea soup” without qualification usually means a perfectly smooth puree. “Split Pea Soup” is a slightly thinner soup with visible peas, pieces of ham or other pork, and vegetables (most commonly carrots) and is usually made from dried, green split peas.

The dish is perhaps most popular in New England, where it was introduced by French-Canadian millworkers in the 19th century. It was also widely eaten in the colonial period, having been brought to New England as part of the English food tradition of the early settlers.

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Many cookbooks contain a recipe or two, and pea soup is especially popular in the Northeast, the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. It does however play a role in the light-hearted tradition of serving green-colored foods on St. Patrick’s Day. For example, a 1919 Boston Globe article suggests a suitable menu for “A St. Patrick’s Day Dinner” leading off with “Cream of Green Pea Soup (American Style),” and continuing with codfish croquettes with green pea sauce, lettuce salad, pistachio ice cream, and “green decorated cake.”

While there are many different ways to make split pea soup, a standard recipe will call for dried green split peas, vegetables like onions, carrots and celery, herbs that may include garlic, thyme, bay leaves, parsley and marjoram, ham hocks, bacon or sausage, and salt and pepper.  The peas should be simmered in water with the vegetables, herbs and ham hocks or other meat until they are soft, between 1 and 2 hours if the peas were not soaked, and 40 minutes to an hour if the peas were soaked. At this point the split pea soup can be pureed if desired and seasoned with salt and pepper. Split pea soup should be served when very hot to avoid lumping. Common accompaniments for split pea soup include ham or sausage and warm bread.

Sources:
1.  About Split Pea Soup.  Retrieved April 20, 2014.
2.  Pea Soup.  Retrieved April 20, 2014
3.  Peas Photo.  Retrieved April 20, 2014
 
 Ingredients:
8-10 Cups of Beef Broth
1 Cup of Cut up Ham
1  1/2 Cup of Cut up Carrots
1- 1  1/2 Cup of Cut up Potatoes
1/2 Cup of Celery (optional)
1/2 Cup of Onions (I used purple and leeks for this recipe, but any kind will do)
1/4 Cup of Fresh Parsley
1 Cup of Half and Half  
1 Package of Dried Green Peas
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Croutons and Fried Dried Onions to Garnish
 
How to make split pea soup:

1.  Prepare your beef brooth, or buy store made one…up to you.  I have step by step instructions for the chicken broth if you need help, just substitute the meat.   Click here for step by step instructions.

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2.  Take out your pack of dried green split peas, I used the whole pack and did a quick soaking method listed on the package.   This means adding water about 2 inches higher then peas and letting it boil for 15 minutes.  Then without draining the water, letting it stand for additional hour to soften up.

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3.  Wash and cut up your carrots.  I used about 1 1/2 cups of cut up baby carrots.

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4.  Then cube your potatoes to make about 1 1/2 cups, you can also put more or less…to adjust to your taste or eliminate altogether.  I used two potatoes for my soup.

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5.  Cut up your onions.  I had some purple onions this time, but any white or yellow onions will do.  I also had some leeks left over and cut them up as well.

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6.  You can also add other ingredients to this soup like celery, broccoli or other veggies.  I also chopped some left over parsley for this version.

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7.  Then slightly fry your onions.  You don’t really have to do it…but since I used leeks and purple onions they are better slightly cooked.  If you are using regular vidalia or sweet onions…you can skip this step.

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8.  Cut up your ham.  Most original split pea soup recipes are made with ham, it just really makes this soup tastes so much better.  Any time of ham will do.  I had some thin slices of black forest ham cut up, and it worked really well.  I also like to slightly fry the ham a little bit before adding it to soup, but you don’t have to…this is totally optional.

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9.  Take out your soaked split peas and drain all the water.  My peas were still a little hard, that is because I was in the rush and didn’t let it soak for the whole hour.  The soup still turned out to be really good, but if you have more time…definitely let it soak a little more or even overnight.

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10.  I cooked my soup in my Crock Pot, but it you don’t have it you can just totally do it in regular pot.  In this case I will give you both instructions…and choose which ever method you prefer.

a.  If you are using crock pot, simply add all your ingredients including peas in a crock pot and pour about 8-10 cups of your beef broth on top of it.  If you want it thicker texture of your soup use less broth…but keep in mind the soup will thicken up dramatically on the next day because the peas will absorb more broth.  To cook it simply set up your crock pot on a Soup Setting and cook it for 40 minutes.

b.  If you are doing the regular pot method, then add your peas first to your hot broth, let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for additional 20 minutes or until your potatoes and carrots are cooked.

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11.  As I mentioned earlier you can also vary the ingredients you put inside your soup.  This version below was done with white onions, celery, cubed canadian bacon and with chicken based stock.

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12.  Once your soup is cooked there also different methods you can use how to serve it.  In the version below…I used immersion blender to blend the soup first then added some half and half to make it creamy and mixed it all up.  I served it with store bought crispy salty fried onions, bread croutons and fresh basil.  You can also serve this soup plain as it it without blending it or adding cream.

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13.  This version of  soup was garnished with bread croutons, cut up ham and some parmesan cheese and garnished with fresh parsley.

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14.  On the photo below I served it with crispy fried onions, diced up scallions, cut up ham and bread sticks.

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I hope you will enjoy this recipe, also please feel free to share your versions of this soup.

Love,

Natalie

Green Tea Homemade Latte

Sasha Green Tea

Sasha Green Tea

Green Tea Latte as fancy as it sounds, is simply froothed milk combined with green tea powder called “Matcha”.   Matcha (pronounced [mat.tɕa]), also spelled maccha, refers to finely milled or fine powder green tea. The Japanese tea ceremony centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. In modern times, matcha has also come to be used to flavor and dye foods such as mochi or soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi (Japanese confectionery). Matcha is a fine-ground, powdered, high-quality green tea and not the same as tea powder or green tea powder.

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Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves also used to make gyokuro. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest & can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight.  This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids, in particular L-Theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying as usual, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. However, if the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tenchaTencha can then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.  It can take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha.  The flavour of matcha is dominated by its amino acids. The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavor than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.

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In general, matcha is expensive compared to other forms of tea, although its price depends on its quality. Grades of matcha are defined by many factors.

Location on the tea bush.

Where leaves destined for tencha are picked on the tea (Camellia sinensis) bush is vital.  The very top should have developing leaves that are soft and supple. This gives a finer texture to higher grades of matcha. More-developed leaves are harder, giving lower grades a sandy texture. The better flavour is a result of the plant’s sending the majority of its nutrients to the growing leaves.

Treatment before processing.

Tencha leaves are traditionally dried outside in the shade and are never exposed to direct sunlight. However, drying has mostly moved indoors. Quality matcha is vibrantly green also as a result of this treatment.

Stone grinding

Without the right equipment and technique, matcha can become “burnt” and suffer degraded quality. Typically in Japan matcha is stone-ground to a fine powder through the use of specially designed granite stone mills.

Oxidation

Oxidation is also a factor in determining grade. Matcha exposed to oxygen can easily become compromised. Oxidized matcha has a distinctive hay-like smell and a dull brownish-green color.

Matcha is also a great energy source because of the special way it deliver caffeine to your body in comparison to coffee. With Matcha the caffeine is absorbed and released slowly by the body over a period of 6-8 hours. This means that Matcha provides a sustainable energy boost and does not deliver the rapid 30 minute spike, slump and “jitters” associated with coffee.

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Matcha can now be found in numerous healthfood products ranging from cereal to energy bars. In 2003, researchers from the University of Colorado found that the concentration of the antioxidant EGCG available from drinking matcha is at least three times greater than the amount of EGCG available from other commercially available green teas.  The aforementioned health benefits of matcha green tea may be attributed to the fact that the whole tea leaf is ingested, as opposed to just the steeped water in the case of ‘bagged’ green teas. This means that it delivers a much higher potency of catechins, chlorophyll, and antioxidants.  By weight, matcha contains several dozen times more antioxidants than blueberries, wolfberries, pomegranates, orange juice, spinach or dark chocolate. There is evidence from clinical studies that suggests that theanine, when consumed by drinking Japanese green teas, may help to reduce or moderate mental stress responses.

Source: Matcha. Retrieved April 19, 2014.

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Now that we know what good matcha looks like…what brand to choose?  I mean there are so many of them out there and I personally don’t have the money to go and try them all out…especially that really good quality matcha is pretty expensive.  There is one website though and one blogger that had some excellent reviews about various matcha brands on their blog.  Click here to learn more.

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The brand I used for this post is called Rishi Tea from www.rishi-tea.com.  The flavor of this matcha was ok, however now that I realize there are better brands out there I might try to use another brand next time and for obvious reasons will update this post as well.

Ingredients:
 
1 cup of Milk (of your choice)
2 teaspoons of Sweet Matcha 
1-2 tablespoons of warm water
 

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How to make Matcha Latte:

1.  Sift about 2 teaspoons of Matcha Latte to a cup.  Depending on flavor and quality of your Matcha you you might need only one teaspoon if it’s more concentrated and has deeper flavor.  Some matchas are not sweet and also have no sugar added, in this case you might want to add syrup, sugar or honey to make your latte sweeter.

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2.  Add two table spoons of hot water to your matcha powder and mix well until all powder is incorporated and you get a paste like texture.  I used a spoon, but in every matcha recipe they suggest using bamboo wisk, picture of which you can find on one of the photos above.

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3.  Use your milk frothing machine to steam and frooth your milk.  While I have one on the expensive side made by Capresso, in reality any hand held milk froother will do.   While my machine steams and froothes the milk, if you are using hand held froother…make sure to heat up your milk first.

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4.  Let your froothed milk stand for few minutes until the foam separates from the rest of the milk.  Pour 2/3 of your milk in the cup with matcha paste and mix, then spoon out the rest of the foam on the top of the cup and sprinkle with some more matcha.  Again, since my matcha was sweetened no sugar was needed, but if you would like your latte sweeter just add more honey or sugar to the mix.

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5.  Enjoy!  My kids love this kind of drink, it’s a nice picker upper during the day and the colors are so vibrant too!

Eating Gree Tea Latte

Sincerely,

Natalie

 

 

 

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Cake cut

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Chocolate mousse…it’s heaven food for any chocolate addicts out there.  It has amazing creamy, airy, light texture that just melts in your mouth.  The origins of chocolate mousse are relatively unknown. After being introduced to chocolate by the Spanish, French chefs have been cooking with chocolate since the early 17th century. Mousse, which means “foam”, originated in France in the 18th century. It was only a matter of time until cooking with chocolate and making dishes with foamy textures came together for “mousse au chocolat.”

The first written record of chocolate mousse in the United States comes from a Food Exposition held at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1892. A “Housekeeper’s Column” in the Boston Daily Globe of 1897 published one of the first recipes for chocolate mousse. The recipe yielded a chocolate pudding-type dish, instead of today’s stiff, but fluffy, mousse.

Mousse became as we know it with the introduction of egg whites, separated from the yolks. The introduction of electric mixers made the foaming process much, much easier. Whipping egg whites by hand is not as effective or efficient.

It is usually made with four components:

  • The base or principal flavoring agent: chocolate, passion fruit, chicken liver, salmon, etc.
  • The binder: egg whites and/or gelatin.
  • The lightening agent (aerator)—the component that gives mousse its light, airy texture—beaten egg whites or whipped cream.
  • Flavoring/Seasoning: traditional salt and pepper for savory mousses to from extracts, liqueurs and spices

This recipe has all three heavenly types of chocolate…dark…milk and white.  It has a combination of beaten egg whites and heavy cream and absolutely no flour in it!

Sources: History of Chocolate Mousse.  Retrieved April 5, 2014

How to make three layer Chocolate Mousse Cake:

Buttom Dark Chocolate Layer

Ingredients:

 6 tbsp unsalted butter
1-1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate (chips or chocolate bar) 
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt 
⅓ cup of sugar
 

Dark Chocolate Layer

1.  Cut up your chocolate bar slightly, to form smaller pieces and melt it over a water bath in a pot along with butter.  What this basically means is put water in a big pot, wait until it boils and then place a smaller pot on top of it.  Then add your chocolate to it, while mixing it up occasionally.  There is an easier method to do this in a microwave, heating it up in 30 second intervals and mixing it in between…but I prefer original method…especially with the large amount of chocolate I had to melt.  Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Melted Dark Chocolate

2.  Separate your egg whites and egg yolk in different bowls.  Combine the egg whites and salt in a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer (with whisk attachments) on medium speed until frothy.

Separated egg whites and yolks

3.   Then add 1/2 a cup of sugar and whisk again using your electric mixer for another few minutes.

Slightly Foamed Egg Whites

4.  Add the remainder of your sugar and whisk again with electric mixer until you develop soft peaks.

Foamed Egg Whites

5.  Add Vanilla Extract to egg yolks bowl.

Egg Yolks Vanilla Extract

6.  Wisk the mixture well until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Vanilla Egg Yolks

7.  Wisk your extracts/egg yolk mixture with slightly cooled chocolate mixture.

Egg Yolk Chocolate Mix

8.  Mix it until well incorporated.  It will get nice and shiny!

Egg Yolk and Chocolate

9.  Gently fold one third of the egg white mixture into the batter to lighten it.  Add the the rest of your egg white mixture and continue folding gently until there are no more white streaks.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

10.  Preheat oven to 325F.  Spray a 9-1/2 inch spring form with non-stick cooking spray.

Spring Pan

11.  Pour your batter into the prepared pan, making sure that it spreads out in an even layer.

Chocolate layer in the pan

12.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the center of the cake is just set (it’ll be soft, but should spring back if gently pressed with your finger.) This time may vary depending on your oven, but don’t worry if the middle of the cake is still very soft as as it had a little crust on top (it is a mousse cake after all).  Set cake aside to cool, inside the pan.

Baked Buttom Layer

 Middle Milk Chocolate Layer:

Ingredients:
 
2 tbsp of good quality cocoa powder 
5 tbsp hot water
1-1/4 cups milk chocolate
1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
 
Middle Layer Ingredients
  
1.  Whisk your cocoa powder and hot water together in a small bowl then set aside.
 
Water and Cocoa Powder
 
 2.  Cut up your milk chocolate or break up your chocolate bar and melt it using a water bath.  Same procedure as the first layer, just without the butter this time around.
 
Milk Chocolate Melted
 
3.  Meanwhile, add the heavy cream, sugar, and salt to a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Increase to high speed and beat until the mixture forms soft peaks.
 
Whipped Cream
 
4.  Add your cocoa powder/water mixture to the bowl of slightly cooled melted chocolate.
 
Cacao Water and Milk Chocolate
 
5.  Wisk the mixture well until it becomes smooth.
 
Melted Milk Chocolate
 
6.  Carefully fold one third of the sweetened whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Add the rest and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture until there are no more white streaks.
 
Added Milk Chocolate to Cream
  
Milk Chocolate Mousse
 
 7.  Scoop the mousse to your springform pan, spreading it into an even layer on top of the cooled cake. Gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any large air bubbles (smooth the top of the mousse again if necessary). Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes while you make the top layer.
 
Middle Layer of the Cake
  
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 Top White Chocolate Layer:

 
Ingredients:
1 tbsp water
¾ tsp flavorless powdered gelatin
1 cup white chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream, divided
 
Top Chocolate Layer
  
1.  Add your water to a small bowl, then sprinkle the gelatin powder over the top.  Set it aside for about 5 minutes.
 
Gelatin and Water
 
 2.  Cut up your white chocolate and melt it over a water bath.  Same as the other two layers.
 
Water Bath for White Chocolate
 
 3.  Heat ½ cup of the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture until it is completely dissolved.
 
4.  Pour the simmered cream mixture over your bowl of melted white chocolate and whisk until the all the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, stirring every few minutes to keep the mixture liquid/smooth.
 
White Chocolate/Cream Mixture
 
 5.  Add the remaining cup of heavy cream to a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Increase to high speed and beat until the mixture forms soft peaks.
 
6. Carefully fold one third of the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture to lighten it. Add the rest of the whipped cream and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture until there are no more white streaks.
 
White Chocolate and Whipped Cream
 
 7.  Spoon the white chocolate mousse into your springform pan and spread it in an even layer over the chocolate mousse layer.
 
Last Layer Ready
 
 
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 8.  Refrigerate the cake until set, at least 2½ hours or more.  Mine stayed in the fridge overnight.  Run a thin knife between the cake and the sides of the springform pan before removing the pan.  Open the springform and pick it up gently.
 
Chocolate Cake Ready
 
 9.  You may decorate your cake with chocolate sprinkles and or fresh fruit.  I did fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate version.  One piece of advice…To keep your layers clean with each slice, wipe down your knife between slices.
  
Piece of Cake
 
 
This recipe was adopted from www.justputzing.com.  I hope you like it, feel free to share your pictures, recipes.  To join our page on facebook, to get up to date information about new recipes and events click here.   Enjoy!
 
 
Natalie
 
 
 
 
Chocolate Mousse Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Three layer Chocolate Mousse Cake with Dark, Milk and White Chocolate.
Author:
Recipe type: Desert
Cuisine: French
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • Buttom Dark Chocolate Layer
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1-1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate (chips or chocolate bar)
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup of sugar
  • Middle Milk Chocolate Layer:
  • 2 tbsp of good quality cocoa powder
  • 5 tbsp hot water
  • 1-1/4 cups milk chocolate
  • 1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Top White Chocolate Layer:
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ¾ tsp flavorless powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream, divided
Instructions
  1. Dark Buttom Chocolate Layer:
  2. Cut up your chocolate bar slightly, to form smaller pieces and melt it over a water bath in a pot along with butter. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Separate your egg whites and egg yolk in different bowls. Combine the egg whites and salt in a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer (with whisk attachments) on medium speed until frothy.
  4. Then add ½ a cup of sugar and whisk again using your electric mixer for another few minutes.
  5. Add the remainder of your sugar and whisk again with electric mixer until you develop soft peaks.
  6. Add Vanilla Extract to egg yolks bowl
  7. Wisk the mixture well until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  8. Wisk your extracts/egg yolk mixture with slightly cooled chocolate mixture.
  9. Mix it until well incorporated. It will get nice and shiny!
  10. Gently fold one third of the egg white mixture into the batter to lighten it. Add the the rest of your egg white mixture and continue folding gently until there are no more white streaks.
  11. Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 9-1/2 inch spring form with non-stick cooking spray.
  12. Pour your batter into the prepared pan, making sure that it spreads out in an even layer.
  13. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the center of the cake is just set (it’ll be soft, but should spring back if gently pressed with your finger.) This time may vary depending on your oven, but don’t worry if the middle of the cake is still very soft as as it had a little crust on top (it is a mousse cake after all). Set cake aside to cool, inside the pan.
  14. Middle Milk Chocolate Layer:
  15. Whisk your cocoa powder and hot water together in a small bowl then set aside.
  16. Cut up your milk chocolate or break up your chocolate bar and melt it using a water bath. Same procedure as the first layer, just without the butter this time around.
  17. Meanwhile, add the heavy cream, sugar, and salt to a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Increase to high speed and beat until the mixture forms soft peaks.
  18. Add your cocoa powder/water mixture to the bowl of slightly cooled melted chocolate.
  19. Wisk the mixture well until it becomes smooth.
  20. Carefully fold one third of the sweetened whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Add the rest and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture until there are no more white streaks.
  21. Scoop the mousse to your springform pan, spreading it into an even layer on top of the cooled cake. Gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any large air bubbles (smooth the top of the mousse again if necessary). Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes while you make the top layer.
  22. Top White Chocolate Layer:
  23. Add your water to a small bowl, then sprinkle the gelatin powder over the top. Set it aside for about 5 minutes.
  24. Cut up your white chocolate and melt it over a water bath. Same as the other two layers.
  25. Heat ½ cup of the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture until it is completely dissolved.
  26. Pour the simmered cream mixture over your bowl of melted white chocolate and whisk until the all the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, stirring every few minutes to keep the mixture liquid/smooth.
  27. Add the remaining cup of heavy cream to a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Increase to high speed and beat until the mixture forms soft peaks.
  28. Carefully fold one third of the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture to lighten it. Add the rest of the whipped cream and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture until there are no more white streaks.
  29. Spoon the white chocolate mousse into your springform pan and spread it in an even layer over the chocolate mousse layer.
  30. Refrigerate the cake until set, at least 2½ hours or more. Mine stayed in the fridge overnight. Run a thin knife between the cake and the sides of the springform pan before removing the pan. Open the springform and pick it up gently.
  31. You may decorate your cake with chocolate sprinkles and or fresh fruit. I did fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate version. One piece of advice…To keep your layers clean with each slice, wipe down your knife between slices.
 
 

Stuffed Italian Peppers in Caramelized Onion and Garlic Sauce

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This dish called stuffed peppers have origins all over the globe.  Different countries have different ways of preparing them, using various fillings and spices.  Natural peppers are so pretty and vibrant, in addition to being delicious and healthy.

Peppers — hot or not — may do more than round out your omelet, spice up your salsa, and make for a colorful stir-fry. They help you get some of your daily vitamins and contain compounds that may be linked to weight loss, pain reduction, and other benefits. Peppers, by the way, are fruits, not vegetables. Whether mild or fiery, peppers are nutrient-dense. They’re one of the richest sources of vitamins A and C.  Just a cup a day can provide more than 100% of your daily needs.

If you cut open a pepper crosswise near the stem, you’ll notice thin walls that divide the pepper into sections. These sections are called the lobes, or cells. Most seed companies describe a well-shaped sweet bell pepper as being “blocky.” The blocky shape comes from this division of the pepper into lobes, and a good, blocky pepper will have three or four lobes. The shape of blocky peppers makes them great for stuffing, slicing into pepper rings and general all-around use.

anatomy-of-a-pepper

Seed companies break the peppers down into two categories: hot and sweet.  The hot types include Cayenne, Jalapeno and Anaheim. Examples of sweet peppers are Bell and Pimiento. Banana and Cherry peppers come both sweet and hot.

Anaheim

Mildly hot, elongated, blunt-ended pods measure from four to 10 inches long and turn from green to red at maturity. These peppers are often called New Mexico chilis because of their long history of being grown in that region. Popular varieties include ‘Anaheim TMR’, ‘NuMex Big Jim’ and ‘NuMex Sunrise’.

Banana

Long, thin-walled pepper that ripens to red or yellow; often used in the immature pale green stage. The hot type is called Hungarian Wax. Varieties include ‘Sweet Banana’ and ‘Giant Yellow Banana’.

Bell

Characterized by large, blocky fruits with three or four lobes, these peppers are about three inches wide and four inches long and they taper slightly. Starting off as dark green to yellow-green, most turn red when fully ripe, although some turn yellow or orange, and even brown or purple. Bell peppers are regularly harvested and used when green. There are around 200 varieties in the Bell group. ‘California Wonder’, ‘Northstar’ and ‘Ace’ belong to this group.

Cayenne

These are hot chile peppers. The fruits are slim, pointed and slightly curved, ranging in length from two to eight inches. Most of the fruits are green, ripening to red. They can be used in either the green or the red stage. Examples are ‘Large Thick Cayenne’, ‘Super Cayenne’ and ‘Long Red Cayenne’.

Cherry

Fruits are cherry or globe-shaped with three cells. They grow on long, upright stems, usually above the leaves of the plant. They are usually orange to deep red when harvested and may be sweet or hot, large or small. Varieties include ‘Cherry Sweet’ and ‘Large Cherry’.

Jalapeno

One of the most well known hot peppers. The three-inch-long by one-inch-wide conical fruits can be eaten green or red and their mildly hot flavor is popular on nachos, salsas and pickled. Varieties include ‘Jalapa’, ‘Jalapeno M’ and ‘TAM Jalapeno’.

Pimiento

These peppers are sweet and have very thick walls. The fruit is conical, two to three inches wide, three to four inches long and slightly pointed. Pimientos are red when ripe, and they’re most commonly used at this stage. Popular varieties include ‘Super Red Pimiento’ and ‘Pimiento L’.

Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental peppers are a true member of the Capsicum family like the peppers that are grown for food outdoors. Give them lots of sun and keep them evenly moist, and they’ll produce many small cone-shaped peppers. These plants, which you can usually buy through a seed catalog, at a florist shop or even in a supermarket, are very pretty when the miniature peppers start to ripen. Often you’ll have a plant simultaneously splashed with green, yellow, red and orange because each pepper ripens at its own pace.

These mini peppers are edible, but they are hot! You can use them in cooking or for attractive and different hors d’oeuvres along with crackers and a dip. Just be careful not to confuse them with a plant called the Jerusalem or Christmas Cherry. Instead of the cone-shaped peppers, these plants have round, reddish-orange fruits when ripe and they are not edible.

Sources:

1.  Pepper Types.  Retrieved April 4, 2014
 
73-types

Ingredients:

1 Bunch of Curled Parsley 
2-3 Cloves of Garlic
10-12 Italian Peppers 
1/4 lb of ground Lamb
1/4 lb of ground Veal
1 large egg
1 large sweet onion
1/2 of uncooked Basmati Rice
Salt/Pepper and other spices of your choice 
1 Large Jar of Tomato Sauce (I used Caramelized Onions and Garlic)
 
Ingredients
 

How to make Italian Stuffed Peppers:

1.  Open up your packages of Lamb and Veal combine them together in a bowl.  Crack one egg in there and mix well.

Meat and Egg

2.  Take out your Basmati Rice (can be replaced with regular rice too) and boil about 1/2 a cup of it.  I usually add only 2/3 of water indicated on the package to make sure the rice is not cooked through completely.

Rice uncooked3.  While your rice is cooking, wash your parsley and peel few cloves of garlic and onion.

Parsley Garlic4.  Cut off the stems of parsley.  Add garlic and parsley to your food processor and chop them up.  It should yield about half a cup of chopped parsley/garlic mix.

DSC_13295.  Cut up your peeled onion slightly and also process them in a food processor.

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DSC_13376.  Once your rice is slightly cooked add it to the meat mixture along with chopped up parsley/garlic and onion mixtures.

DSC_13347.  Now mix everything well with your hands, this is also a good time to add salt/pepper to taste as well as well as any other spices of your choice.

DSC_1349e8.  Now that your meat mixture is ready, take out your peppers and wash them well.  I used fresh peppers in this recipe, but if you have an issues with having skin on your peppers or you prefer them roasted, you can roast them first before you stuff them up too.

Italian Peppers9.  Cut out the tops of the peppers and wash out the seeds inside.  I used my long ice tea spoon to help me scrape them out (since some peppers are quite thin and long).  Please share if you know a better method for getting it done:)

DSC_134510.  Now it’s time to stuff your peppers with your filling.  It can be a bit challenging since they can break, so be patient and gentle:)   Try to stuff the filling all the way down.

DSC_1352e11.  Once your peppers are ready take out your cast iron pot and carefully place them on the buttom.

DSC_135412.  Open the Pasta Sauce of your choice.  I often use different kids for variety, but I do prefer Caramelized Onions and Garlic flavor the most.  The best pasta sauce I found was in Aldi stores, however when I made these it wasn’t available so I used regular store bought sauce.

DSC_135613.  Pour your pasta sauce over your peppers and add a little bit of hot water to make sure all the peppers are evenly coated.  If you like really thick sauce you can just use two jars.  Keep in mind though that the sauce slightly thickens after you cook your peppers.  (Note: the photo below was before I added the water)

DSC_136114.  Cook (boil) your peppers on medium high for about 40-45 minutes or until they cooked through.  I know some of your might prefer to bake them, I honestly failed on two attempts that I have previously tried and the meat inside didn’t cook through well, so I always do it on stove top and not in the oven.  Once they are ready you can serve them with some sour cream and sprinkle with some cheese and basil for an extra kick…but this is totally optional.

DSC_1404I hope you have enjoyed this recipe.  Please share yours two, I know there are so many other good ones out there…and I always like to change things up a bit too:)

Natalie

 

 

Stuffed Italian Peppers in Caramelized Onion and Garlic Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Stuffed Italian Peppers with ground lamb/veal, basmati rice, herbs and spices in Caramelized Onions and Garlic Sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: Russian/Ukrainian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 Bunch of Curled Parsley
  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 10-12 Italian Peppers
  • ¼ lb of ground Lamb
  • ¼ lb of ground Veal
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • ½ cup of uncooked Basmati Rice
  • Salt/Pepper and other spices of your choice
  • Sour Cream/Basil/Cheese to serve on the side (optional)
  • 1 Large Jar of Tomato Sauce (I used Caramelized Onions and Garlic)
Instructions
  1. Open up your packages of Lamb and Veal combine them together in a bowl. Crack one egg in there and mix well.
  2. Take out your Basmati Rice (can be replaced with regular rice too) and boil about ½ a cup of it. I usually add only ⅔ of water indicated on the package to make sure the rice is not cooked through completely.
  3. While your rice is cooking, wash your parsley and peel few cloves of garlic and onion.
  4. Cut off the stems of parsley. Add garlic and parsley to your food processor and chop them up. It should yield about half a cup of chopped parsley/garlic mix.
  5. Cut up your peeled onion slightly and also process it in a food processor.
  6. Once your rice is slightly cooked add it to the meat along with chopped up parsley/garlic and onion mixtures.
  7. Now mix everything well with your hands, this is also a good time to add salt/pepper to taste as well as well as any other spices of your choice.
  8. Now that your meat mixture is ready, take out your peppers and wash them well.
  9. Cut out the tops of the peppers and wash out the seeds inside.
  10. Now it’s time to stuff your peppers with your filling. It can be a bit challenging since they can break, so be patient and gentle:) Try to stuff the filling all the way down.
  11. Once your peppers are ready take out your cast iron pot and carefully place them on the buttom.
  12. Open the Pasta Sauce of your choice.
  13. Pour your pasta sauce over your peppers and add a little bit of hot water to make sure all the peppers are evenly coated. If you like really thick sauce you can just use two jars. Keep in mind though that the sauce slightly thickens after you cook your peppers.
  14. Cook (boil) your peppers on medium high for about 40-45 minutes or until they cooked through. Once they are ready you can serve them with some sour cream and sprinkle with some cheese and basil for an extra kick…but this is totally optional.

 

 

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev

It’s been a while since I have written a post…Don’t get me wrong I have been cooking, just with work and kids it been close to impossible to find extra time to snap/edit/post  pictures and post recipes.  We also had such a brutal winter here in New York with so many snow days, I can’t believe it’ end of March and I am still talking about snow:).  Well there is one benefit to all of this though… we got to spend more time together as a family on these snow days and kids had more fun then ever to stay home.  The picture below was an Igloo that Sergei built in our backyard, it was so big that we were able to get our beach chairs inside and have a tea party:).

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We also got so sick of snow, that ended up taking a family trip to Cancun during a winter break and have enjoyed it a lot.  Like I said we have been really busy:).

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Anyways enough about me…lets talk more about CHICKEN! Chicken Kiev (Ukrainian: Котлета по-київськи, kotleta po-kyivsky, Russian: Котлета по-киевски, kotleta po-kiyevski) is a popular breaded cutlet dish of boneless chicken breast pounded and rolled around cold garlic butter with herbs, then breaded and either fried or baked. Contrary to popular misconception, Chicken Kiev is not of Russian origin with the honours belonging to Nicolas Appert, a French chef who is also credited with the invention of canning food.

During the mid-eighteenth century, the Russian aristocracy held a fashion for French couture and cookery and sent many chefs to train in France. Upon returning home the dish was called “cotelettes de volaille” to please the francophile aristocrats and it is generally thought that it was not until the 1800s that Ukranian emigrants in New York renamed it Chicken Kiev to give their brethren a taste of home.

Sources:

1.  Chicken Kiev.  Retrieved March 28, 2014
2.  Chicken Kiev recipe and history.  Retrieved March 28, 2014

 

Ingredients:

Parsley/Garlic Butter:
2 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
pinch of salt
 
4 large (8-oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup flour with 2 tsp salt mixed in
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying, enough for 2-inches in a small pot
 
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How to make Chicken Kiev:
1.  Wash parsley, peel few cloves of garlic ( I used a little more for my version of this recipe) and take out butter our of the refrigerator to soften it a little bit.
Parsley and Garlic
2.  Slice garlic a little bit and place it in a small food processor.
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3.  Add washed and trimmed parsley on the top.
Garlic Parsley Blend
4.  Pulse parsley and garlic in a small food processor until well chopped, you might need to open it few times and scrape off the sides.
Chopped Parsley and Garlic
5.  Cut up your slightly softened butter and add to your food processor.
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6.  Pulse and mix several times until well incorporated.   It should turn a nice light green color.
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7.  Take out a piece of plastic wrap and using a spatula take all the butter out.
Butter
8.  Cover the top with plastic wrap and form it up a little bit.  Then pop it in a freezer for about 20 minutes.  I usually make more then necessary to have it available when I am doing Chicken Kiev again, since it can stay in the freezer for months.
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9.  Meanwhile take out your chicken breasts.  Wash them up and place them on a plastic wrap smooth side down (on the photo below it’s the smooth side up so you can see) and cover again with plastic wrap.
Chicken Breast
10.  Beat and flatten your chicken breasts as thin as possible without ripping them up, I only use the flat side of my meat tenderizer.
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11.  They should be about 1/4 of an inch thick.
Chicken
12.  Now your butter is ready.  Take it out of the freezer and divide it into pieces about 1 table spoon each piece.
Frozen Butter Ready
13.  Open up your chicken from plastic wrap on one side.  Add some salt and pepper to the top and place one piece of butter closer to the largest side of the breast to make it easier to wrap up from all the sides to “trap the butter”.
Butter inside the chicken
14.  Once rolled up, wrap it tightly using plastic wrap again and pop them all back up in the freezer for additional 15 minutes for the edges to firm up.
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15.  Now you are ready to coat your chicken.  There is a three layer coating process:
1.  Coat your chicken well in flour mixture of just salt and flour mixed up
2.  Roll chicken in the egg mixture (just 2 eggs beaten)
3.  Coat the chicken in panko breadcrumbs or italian breadcrumbs…your choice
Once the entire cutlet is well coated, place some crumbs on the button of the place and put the chicken in the freezer for another 15 minutes, while you heat up your oil and stove.
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16.  In the meantime take a cast iron pan or your deep fryer at heat up the oil to 300F or on medium-high if using a stove for about 10-15 minutes.  Also turn on your oven and let it warm up to 400F.   Then take out slightly frozen well coated chicken and using a metal thongs place it slowly in the oil with seams side down.
The time it takes each piece to brown will vary, depending on the size of your chicken but you should fry it until you start to see light golden color (usually 3-4 minutes) on each side.
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17.  Once your chicken has nice golden crust (this will protect the butter inside from leaking out in the oven), you can place cutlets on a foil and bake them in the oven at 400 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes.  Few tips….a) space your cutlets evenly on a middle rack to make sure it cooks through evenly  b) sprinkle some salt on the top to help making it crispier on top c) don’t cut into your cutlets right away when you take them out of the oven…let them sit for about five to ten minutes, this will let them cook on the inside a little more and make sure your meat is not raw.
Chicken Kiev
Your chicken is now ready!  You can serve it with side of potatoes and some fresh salad.  I hope you have enjoyed this recipe.  I wanted to give a special thanks to Chef John from FoodWishes.com for inspiration and his guidance to make this dish happen.  If you would like to see a video of this recipe you can also click here to see this recipe on FoodWishes.com website.
Enjoy!
Natalie
Chicken Kiev
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Delicious chicken recipe with garlic/parsley/butter sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Ukranian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • Parsley/Garlic Butter:
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large (8-oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup flour with 2 tsp salt mixed in
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying, enough for 2-inches in a small pot
Instructions
  1. Wash parsley, peel few cloves of garlic ( I used a little more for my version of this recipe) and take out butter our of the refrigerator to soften it a little bit.
  2. Slice garlic a little bit and place it in a small food processor.
  3. Add washed and trimmed parsley on the top.
  4. Pulse parsley and garlic in a small food processor until well chopped, you might need to open it few times and scrape off the sides.
  5. Cut up your slightly softened butter and add to your food processor.
  6. Pulse and mix several times until well incorporated. It should turn a nice light green color.
  7. Take out a piece of plastic wrap and using a spatula take all the butter out.
  8. Cover the top with plastic wrap and form it up a little bit. Then pop it in a freezer for about 20 minutes. I usually make more then necessary to have it available when I am doing Chicken Kiev again, since it can stay in the freezer for months.
  9. Meanwhile take out your chicken breasts. Wash them up and place them on a plastic wrap smooth side down (on the photo below it’s the smooth side up so you can see) and cover again with plastic wrap.
  10. Beat and flatten your chicken breasts as thin as possible without ripping them up, I only use the flat side of my meat tenderizer.
  11. They should be about ¼ of an inch thick.
  12. Now your butter is ready. Take it out of the freezer and divide it into pieces about 1 table spoon each piece.
  13. Open up your chicken from plastic wrap on one side. Add some salt and pepper to the top and place one piece of butter closer to the largest side of the breast to make it easier to wrap up from all the sides to “trap the butter”.
  14. Once rolled up, wrap it tightly using plastic wrap again and pop them all back up in the freezer for additional 15 minutes for the edges to firm up.
  15. Now you are ready to coat your chicken. There is a three layer coating process:
  16. Coat your chicken well in flour mixture of just salt and flour mixed up
  17. Roll chicken in the egg mixture (just 2 eggs beaten)
  18. Coat the chicken in panko breadcrumbs or italian breadcrumbs…your choice
  19. Once the entire cutlet is well coated, place some crumbs on the button of the place and put the chicken in the freezer for another 15 minutes, while you heat up your oil and stove.
  20. In the meantime take a cast iron pan or your deep fryer at heat up the oil to 300F or on medium-high if using a stove for about 10-15 minutes. Also turn on your oven and let it warm up to 400F. Then take out slightly frozen well coated chicken and using a metal thongs place it slowly in the oil with seams side down.
  21. The time it takes each piece to brown will vary, depending on the size of your chicken but you should fry it until you start to see light golden color (usually 3-4 minutes) on each side.
  22. Once your chicken has nice golden crust (this will protect the butter inside from leaking out in the oven), you can place cutlets on a foil and bake them in the oven at 400 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes. Few tips….a) space your cutlets evenly on a middle rack to make sure it cooks through evenly b) sprinkle some salt on the top to help making it crispier on top c) don’t cut into your cutlets right away when you take them out of the oven…let them sit for about five to ten minutes, this will let them cook on the inside a little more and make sure your meat is not raw.
  23. Your chicken is now ready! You can serve it with side of potatoes and some fresh salad. I hope you have enjoyed this recipe.

Homemade Flan

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I have tried number of these delicious deserts during our family trips to Mexico.  I have also seen them in our local supermarkets, but honestly didn’t pay much attention to it, while grocery shopping.  I was thinking about making something different today and came across many videos how to make a Flan and finally decided to give in and give it a try.  It was so easy to make and kids simply loved it’s creamy and smooth texture.

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For those of you who never tried it….flan is a dessert with eggs and milk as the usual main ingredients. Usually it is made into an open type of pastry like pies. It may also be mixed with other ingredients to add flavoring. One such ingredient commonly mixed to it is caramelized sugar. This is usually put on top or at the bottom of the custard or flan mixture to add a sweet flavor. It is also for this reason that flans are also called cream caramels.

Flan recipes can be traced as far back as ancient Roman times. During this period, Romans were said to raise chickens to keep the eggs. Reports indicate that when there were so many eggs available, some Romans decided to make new recipes. This eventually led to the development of the custard-like mixture we know today. But during the Roman times, flan was more of a savory dish rather than a sweet dessert. Various food items and ingredients were mixed with egg and milk to come up with a variety of dishes.

Flan then evolved over the years as a sweet dessert. Eggs and milk or cream are still the basic ingredients in making this well-loved dessert. The word “flan” has Latin roots and it means “flat cake”. It later became “flaon” which is an Old French word. Flan recipes eventually reached many countries of the world. In Spain, flan became the custard dessert mixed with caramelized sugar. In other countries like the UK, flan was made with pastry crusts and became more like custard pies. The English version of this dessert is also often mixed with nuts and a variety of fruits.

Today, flan recipes are very popular especially in Latin American countries, in the US, Japan, and the Philippines. Various recipes were invented and sometimes using alternatives to the original ingredients. The Japanese are said to substitute cow’s milk with milk from soy in making their flan desserts. Others put extra ingredients like fruit slices and whip cream to add to the sweet creamy taste.

Source:  What is Flan?.  Retrieved November 30, 2013

Ingredients:

1 Cup of White Sugar
1 (14 oz) can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 Cups of Heavy Cream
1 Cup of Milk
5 Eggs
2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
 
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How to make Flan:

1.  Break 5 Eggs into a bowl and wisk them well.

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2.  In a large mixing bowl.  Pour 1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk.

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3.  Add 2 Cups of Heavy Cream.  You can probably use half and half too, but I decided to go with original recipe.

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4.  Then add 1 Cup of Milk.  You can also replace it with less fattened milk if you want to cut on calories…but I used whole milk in mine.

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5.  Pour your eggs into your mixture.   I avoided wisking them before hand and it made it much harder to mix everything.

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6.  Slightly mix your mixture and add 2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract.

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7.  Now mix everything well to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated. You can also use a blender to do this, but I did it by hand to make less mess:)

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8.  Then pour your mixture into a glass jar to make it easier to distribute between ramekins later on.

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9.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You will need 6 small baking pans or 8 small ramekins or other specialty flan cookware and a large baking pan to put them in.

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10.  Now you are ready to caramelize your sugar.  Pour 1 cup sugar in warm pan over medium heat.

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11.  Constantly stir sugar until is browns and becomes caramel.

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12.  Quickly pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of caramel in each baking dish, tilting it to swirl the caramel around the sides. Reheat caramel if it starts to harden.

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13.  Then pour pour your mixture and distribute it evenly between all ramekins.  You can also use a round pie baking dish or small ramekins.  I decided to go with rectangular baking forms.  Place the filled baking forms into a large pan and add 1 inch of hot water to the outer pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until set.

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14.  When you Flan is ready, slightly run with a knife around the edges and invert it into your plate.  You can decorate it with caramel sugar swirls or fresh fruit.  Enjoy!

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Love,

Natalie

Homemade Flan
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Delicious homemade Flan with Caramel Sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 Cup of White Sugar
  • 1 (14 oz) can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 Cups of Heavy Cream
  • 1 Cup of Milk
  • 5 Eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
Instructions
  1. Break 5 Eggs into a bowl and wisk them well.
  2. In a large mixing bowl. Pour 1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk.
  3. Add 2 Cups of Heavy Cream. You can probably use half and half too, but I decided to go with original recipe.
  4. Then add 1 Cup of Milk. You can also replace it with less fattened milk if you want to cut on calories…but I used whole milk in mine.
  5. Pour your eggs into your mixture.
  6. Slightly mix your mixture and add 2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract.
  7. Now mix everything well to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated. You can also use a blender to do this.
  8. Then pour your mixture into a glass jar to make it easier to distribute between ramekins later on.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You will need 6 small baking pans or 8 small ramekins or other specialty flan cookware and a large baking pan to put them in.
  10. Now you are ready to caramelize your sugar. Pour 1 cup sugar in warm pan over medium heat.
  11. Constantly stir sugar until is browns and becomes caramel.
  12. Quickly pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of caramel in each baking dish, tilting it to swirl the caramel around the sides. Reheat caramel if it starts to harden.
  13. Then pour pour your mixture and distribute it evenly between all ramekins. You can also use a round pie baking dish or small ramekins. I decided to go with rectangular baking forms. Place the filled baking forms into a large pan and add 1 inch of hot water to the outer pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until set.
  14. When you Flan is ready, slightly run with a knife around the edges and invert it into your plate. You can decorate it with caramel sugar swirls or fresh fruit. Enjoy!

 

Cherry Danish

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I love Danishes, but they always seemed so complicated to make…so our family just opted out to buy the ready made versions in our local stores.  That was soo in the past now, thanks for our fellow blogger Natasha from Natashaskitchen.com who recently has made a video recipe for a Peach Danish and has inspired me to also finally try making one at home.

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I did change few ingredients for my danish, and used absolutely delicious cherry preserves we had left over at home instead of canned peaches.  It turned out to be amazing.  Home made danish is very different from all the store bought versions, it is nice crunchy dough and absolutely delicious filling.  I can’t say enough good things about making your own danish, you just got to try it yourself.

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Ingredients:

6 oz of Whipped Cream Cheese
1/4 Cup of Sugar
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 Cup of Cherry Preserves (or any other kind)
1 sheet of store-bought frozen puff pastry
Egg Wash: 1 large egg mixed with 1 Tbsp water
1 Table Spoon of Sugar to Sprinkle the Danish
Glaze: 1/3 cup Powdered sugar mixed with 1/2 Tbsp Milk
 

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1.  I doubled my recipe so on the pictures you will see double of everything:)  I really should have tripled it though, because it was gone after first breakast meal with no hope left for leftovers.  Start making your filling by taking our your cream cheese and adding it to your large mixing bowl.

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2.  Add 1/4 Cup of Sugar.

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3.  Mix everything well using your electric mixer.

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4.  Now add your egg yolk.

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5.  Add 1/8 teaspoons of salt.  I like to use Pink Salt in my recipes.

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6.  Squeeze 1/2 of your lemon juice into your mixture.  Make sure to prevent any seeds from falling in.  Then add 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract.

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7.  Mix everything well again, make sure all ingredients are well incorporated and you have smooth and creamy texture.

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8.  Now you are ready to prepare your puff pastry.  Dust a sheet of parchment paper with flour and place your dough over it.  Then roll the dough out slightly to flatten the top. Cut off the top corners and cut out notches in the bottom of your pastry. Use kitchen scissors or a pizza cutter to cut an equal number of 1-inch wide strips diagonally down the sides of the pastry.

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9. Spread your prepared cream cheese in the middle of your puff pastry lengthwise, staying inside the the middle third of the pastry and leaving a 1″ border at the top and bottom of the pastry.

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10.  Spread your cherry preserves evenly over the cream cheese.

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11.  Now you are ready to braid the pastry strips by folding the cut pieces, alternating between sides. I have to say it does take some time to practice but you’ll get it eventually:)

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12.  Mine didn’t turn out to be perfect, but I’d say it was good enough for the first attempt.  It should look something like this when you finished with it.

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13.  Now you can make your egg wash by combining 1 egg with 1 tbsp of water.  Then use your pastry brush and generously brush the dough so it will have a nice golden color.  Finally sprinkle it generously with some sugar so it will caramelize a little bit on the top of your dough.

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14.  Preheat your oven to 400F.  Transfer your danish to oven proof baking dish and bake for 25-28 min or until top is golden brown.  While your danish is baking, make your glaze by combining 1/3 cup Powdered sugar mixed with 1/2 Tbsp Milk.

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15.  You are almost done!  Take the danish out of the oven and wait until it cools down to room temperature.  Then poor some glaze over your danish and sprinkle it with some fresh fruit of your choice or enjoy as is!:)

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Enjoy!  Thank you again to Natasha from Natashaskitchen.com for coming up with this wonderful recipe idea!

Natalie

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cherry Danish
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Cherry Preserves Danish
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 6 oz of Whipped Cream Cheese
  • ¼ Cup of Sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • ½ Cup of Cherry Preserves (or any other kind)
  • 1 sheet of store-bought frozen puff pastry
  • Egg Wash: 1 large egg mixed with 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Table Spoon of Sugar to Sprinkle the Danish
  • Glaze: ⅓ cup Powdered sugar mixed with ½ Tbsp Milk
Instructions
  1. Start making your filling by taking our your cream cheese and adding it to your large mixing bowl
  2. Add ¼ Cup of Sugar.
  3. Mix everything well using your electric mixer.
  4. Now add your egg yolk.
  5. Add ⅛ teaspoons of salt.
  6. Squeeze ½ of your lemon juice into your mixture. Make sure to prevent any seeds from falling in. Then add ½ tsp Vanilla Extract.
  7. Mix everything well again, make sure all ingredients are well incorporated and you have smooth and creamy texture.
  8. Now you are ready to prepare your puff pastry. Dust a sheet of parchment paper with flour and place your dough over it. Then roll the dough out slightly to flatten the top. Cut off the top corners and cut out notches in the bottom of your pastry. Use kitchen scissors or a pizza cutter to cut an equal number of 1-inch wide strips diagonally down the sides of the pastry.
  9. Spread your prepared cream cheese in the middle of your puff pastry lengthwise, staying inside the the middle third of the pastry and leaving a 1″ border at the top and bottom of the pastry.
  10. Spread your cherry preserves evenly over the cream cheese.
  11. Now you are ready to braid the pastry strips by folding the cut pieces, alternating between sides.
  12. Now you can make your egg wash by combining 1 egg with 1 tbsp of water. Then use your pastry brush and generously brush the dough so it will have a nice golden color.
  13. Finally sprinkle it generously with some sugar so it will caramelize a little bit on the top of your dough.
  14. Preheat your oven to 400F. Transfer your danish to oven proof baking dish and bake for 25-28 min or until top is golden brown. While your danish is baking, make your glaze by combining ⅓ cup Powdered sugar mixed with ½ Tbsp Milk.
  15. You are almost done! Take the danish out of the oven and wait until it cools down to room temperature. Then poor some glaze over your danish.
  16. Enjoy!

 

 

Ukranian Syrniki (Cheese Pancakes)

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I’ve always loved Syrniki.  Ever since I was a little girl I remember my grandmother making them for breakfast.  There are so many different recipes how to make them, this includes varying types of cheeses and including either fresh fresh fruit or dried raisins in its recipe.   As much as I like to experiment in my cooking… some things I still keep the same.  This recipe was taught to me by my grandmother and now I am sharing this with you.

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I am sure majority of you have tried them before, but for those of you who don’t know what Syrniki are…here is a little info.

“Syrniki are made from creamy quark, mixed with flour, eggs, and sugar, sometimes adding vanilla extract. The soft mixture is shaped into cakes, which are fried, generally in vegetable oil. The outside becomes crisp, and the center is warm and creamy. They are sweet and served for breakfast or dessert. Their simplicity has made them very popular in Eastern Europe.

The name syrniki is derived from the word сыр in Russian or сир in Ukrainian(transliteration: syr), meaning “cheese” in both languages. Although the modern meaning of the word сыр (syr) in Russian is hard yellow cheese, the original word in Slavic languages stood for soft white cheese (similar to today’s quark cheese, which is still called сир in Ukrainian but metamorphosed into творог, tvorog in Russian). Thus, the word syrniki, derived from the old meaning of syr, came to designate pancakes made from soft white cheese.”

Source:  Syrniki.

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Ingredients:

5 Table Spoons of Sugar
5 Table Spoons of Flour (and more flour to shape syrniki up)
1 Egg
1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
500g of Soft Cheese (Tvorog)
1/4 Cup of Vegetable Oil
1 Table Spoon of Sour Cream
1 Table Spoon of Sour Cherries Preserve (can use any other kind as well)

 

How to Make Syrniki:

1.  I doubled my recipe so you will see twice of everything on my pictures, however if you only want about 12 medium syrniki pieces follow these measurements.  Take out your tvorog (soft cheese) and put in in a large mixing bowl.  I like to use Amish Soft Cheese with smooth texture, but any kind of tvorog will work as long as it’s not too runny.

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2.  Add in 1 egg into your mixture.  Again I added 2 because my recipe was doubled.

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3.  Add 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract.  If you are doubling your recipe add a whole teaspoon.

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4.  Now add 5 tablespoons of Sugar.  I like my syrniki on the sweet side, but if you will serve them with honey or syrup…you may choose to add less sugar.   For a double recipe I used only 8-9 spoons of sugar.

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5.  Add 5 Tablespoons of Flour.  Again, I added 10 tablespoons because I doubled my recipe.  You will also need about half a cup of flour to form your pancakes later on, so your hands don’t stick.

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6.  Gently mix all the ingredients with a spatula and then using electric mixer.  Make sure there is no lumps and all ingredients are well incorporated.

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7.  Once your mixture is done you are ready to form your pancakes.  Take a cutting board and add plenty of flour on the top of it, flour your hands as well so they don’t stick.  Then using a spoon, add the cheese mixture on the board with flour, sprinkle some more flour on the top of your mixture and form a thick pancakes with your hands.

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8.   In the meantime heat you up pan with some vegetable oil and add your Syrniki to the pan to cook.   They should cook on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes on each side.

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9.  Your Syrniki will be ready when they will turn nice golden brown color on both sides.

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10.  Once you have finished frying them on the pan, turn on your oven to 350F and bake them in the oven proof baking dish for additional 5-7 minutes.  This will allow them to cook throughout and slightly rise.

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11.  Your Syrniki are now ready.  You can serve them with fresh fruit, maple syrup or simply with some sour cream.  My favorite combination is to mix 1 table spoon of sour cream and 1 table spoon of Sour Cherry Preserves and pour this sauce over my Syrniki.

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Dig in and enjoy!  I hope you liked this recipe, feel free to share with your friends and family too!

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Love,

Natalie

Ukranian Syrniki (Cheese Pancakes)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Syrniki with Sour Cream and Sour Cherry Preserves
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Ukranian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 5 Table Spoons of Sugar
  • 5 Table Spoons of Flour (and more flour to shape syrniki up)
  • 1 Egg
  • ½ Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 500g of Soft Cheese (Tvorog)
  • ¼ Cup of Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Table Spoon of Sour Cream
  • 1 Table Spoon of Sour Cherries Preserve
Instructions
  1. Take out your tvorog (soft cheese) and put in in a large mixing bowl. I like to use Amish Soft Cheese with smooth texture, but any kind of tvorog will work as long as it’s not too runny.
  2. Add in 1 egg into your mixture.
  3. Add ½ Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract.
  4. Now add 5 tablespoons of Sugar. I like my syrniki on the sweet side, but if you will serve them with honey or syrup…you may choose to add less sugar.
  5. Add 5 Table Spoon of Flour.
  6. Gently mix all the ingredients with a spatula and then using electric mixer. Make sure there is no lumps and all ingredients are well incorporated.
  7. Once your mixture is done you are ready to form your pancakes. Take a cutting board and add plenty of flour on the top of it, flour your hands as well so they don’t stick. Then using a spoon, add the cheese mixture on the board with flour, sprinkle some more flour on the top of your mixture and form a thick pancakes with your hands.
  8. In the meantime heat you up pan with some vegetable oil and add your Syrniki to the pan to cook. They should cook on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes on each side.
  9. Your Syrniki will be ready when they will turn nice golden brown color on both sides.
  10. Once you have finished frying them on the pan, turn on your oven to 350F and bake them in the oven proof baking dish for additional 5-7 minutes. This will allow them to cook throughout and slightly rise.
  11. Your Syrniki are now ready. You can serve them with fresh fruit, maple syrup or simply with some sour cream. My favorite combination is to mix 1 table spoon of sour cream and 1 table spoon of Sour Cherry Preserves and pour this sauce over my Syrniki.

 

Greek Style Salad with Chicken

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Salads, oh salads…I can’t think of how many recipes of those I have done.  I mean the choices of ingredients are infinite, just let your imagination go and figure out what works best for you taste buds and you’ll be able to find your perfect combination.  All of these salads are so easy to make, are pretty healthy and the best part that you can change/add/remove any ingredients from this recipe to your liking.

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This chicken in this salad was prepared in advance by cooking it on the pan, first rolled on in flour then eggs and covered with basic chicken spices.  It is very similar style to Sweet Mesquite Chicken Cutlets that I have done earlier, click on the link to get the recipe if you would like.   In addition to cooking chicken I also bought some dried beef for this salad or as some of you call it Bastruma or Pastrima.

Pastırma or bastirma or basturma is a highly seasoned, air-dried cured beef of Anatolian origin.  Pastırma is prepared by salting the meat, then washing it with water and letting it dry for 10–15 days. The blood and salt is then squeezed out of the meat which is then covered with a cumin paste called çemen (lit., ‘fenugreek’) prepared with crushed cumin,fenugreek, garlic, and hot paprika, followed by thorough air-drying.

Source: What is Pastrima?

In addition to beef I also added olives and feta cheese to give this salad a “Greek” flair.  The rest is pure delicious magic, cut it all up and enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 Teaspoon of Freeze Dried Red Onion or some fresh Red Onion to your liking
1-2 Pieces of Cooked Chicken
1-2 Tablespoons of Feta Cheese
1/2 Can of Black Pitted Olives
1/2 of Avocado
4-6 Slices of Dried Beef or Bastruma
1 Lettuce Head
1/2 Cup of Cherry Tomatoes
1-2 Table Spoons White Balsamic Vinegar
1-2 Table Spoons of Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste
 

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How to make Greek Style Salad with Chicken:

1.  Wash and cut up your lettuce.  You can also replace it with mixed greens, arugula…the choice is yours.

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2.  Plate your lettuce and sprinkle it with some Feta Cheese.

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3.  Cut up avocado.  I prefer to use avocado that is not too soft to touch.  Those who are too soft get too mushy, when they are just beginning to get soft they taste grate and hold their shape when cut.

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4.  Cut up your cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the plate.  You can also use regular diced up tomatoes too.

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5.  Cut up your dried Beef.

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6.  Finally cut up your chicken and cut your olives in half.  Add them to your salad.

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7.  Your salad is almost done.  For the dressing I used a mix of Olive Oil, Balsamic White Vinegar and Salt/Pepper to Taste.  I also sprinkled my salad with some freeze dried red onions.  You can also used fresh one if you would like, I would just recommend dicing it up very small.

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Your salad is all ready, Enjoy!

Love,

Natalie

Banana Ricotta Cheese Pancakes

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I’ve tried making different kind of pancakes, but by far my favorite version is with Ricotta Cheese.  These pancakes are so soft and tender, that they literally melt in your mouth.  They also don’t dry out in a day or two, so you can cook a batch and store it for few days for your family to enjoy.   They are also very versatile you can pretty much add any other fruit to it and make it your own.  I have done them with cherries, blueberries, walnuts (mixed with honey), dried fruit…you name it…I tried it! This version made with fresh bananas tends to be kids favorite and they love helping out making them.   But what makes Ricotta Cheese special and how it is really made?

“Ricotta is a type of whey cheese, developed in Italy but manufactured and sold all over the world. It is a very flexible and delicious dairy product, starring in lasagna, cannoli, and many other delicious dishes that require the use of a soft, mild cheese product. The name actually means “to cook again” in Italian, a reference to the way in which ricotta is manufactured. The cheese is also highly nutritious eaten plain, although somewhat bland in flavor.

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The whey drained from cheese while it is being made is recycled to make ricotta. Most cheese making involves curdling milk, draining the whey, and scooping the curds into forms. The whey is usually discarded, although sometimes it is retained for animal fodder or starting other cheeses. When making ricotta, this whey is heated again, to bring the proteins in the whey to the surface. As the whey is heated, vinegar or another type of acid is added to promote separation, and the temperature is further raised until the lactalbumin, or proteins, rise to the surface. These proteins are drained in very fine cheesecloth for two days and then the cheese brought to market.

Ricotta is usually a fresh cheese, although some versions such as ricotta salata are molded and aged, and form a unique part of Italian cuisine although they are rarely seen in the United States. The cheese should be eaten quickly, and kept under refrigeration until then. It can also be frozen for future use, and will last frozen for approximately six months. Many recipes call for the cheese, which lends an excellent texture and flavor to a wide variety of dishes.

In general, ricotta is made from cows milk whey, although sheep and goat are used as well. If sheep or goat whey is used, it is clearly labeled to indicate this. In many parts of the world where demand for ricotta is high, it can be made directly from milk although it will tend to be more dry and less creamy. When making it from milk, the milk must be heated before acid is added and the proteins will rise to the surface, just as they do when making traditional ricotta. The mixture can be strained through cheesecloth and allowed to sit for several days.

 Ricotta has become very popular and is usually a relatively low fat product, making it ideal for dieters. Some dairies also sell it in a fat free form, although the difference in fat content may not be that significant and the flavor of the normal variety may be preferable.”
Source: What is Ricotta?  Retrieved November 5, 2013.
                Ricotta Making.  Photo Retrieved November 5, 2013
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 Ingredients:

1 cup of Ricotta Cheese
2 Eggs 
1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
3 Teaspoons of Sugar (can substitute with brown sugar)
Dash of Salt
4 Table Spoons of Flour
3 Table Spoons of Vegetable Oil (1 for the mix, the other two to moisten the pan)
1 Ripe Banana
 

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 How to make Banana Ricotta Pancakes:

1.  Cut and then mash up your banana in a bowl with a fork.

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2.  Add 1 cup of Ricotta Cheese.

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3.  Then add 4 table spoons of flour and 1/2  teaspoon of baking powder.

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4.  Crack two eggs in your mixture, add 3 teaspoons of brown sugar (or regular sugar) and dash of salt.

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5.  Mix everything up, I prefer to use the electric mixer to do the job well and then add 1 table spoons of Vegetable Oil.  Your pancake mix is now ready.

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6.  You can use a large table spoon to add your pancakes mix to a preheated and slightly oiled pan.  My favorite brand for the flat pancake pan is by Calphalon, it’s non stick and distributes the heat evenly…you can click here for more info, it’s also has been added to our shop for your convenience.

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7.  Once the first batch is done, make sure you stand by because they cook very fast each side is pretty much under a minute.   When you see the edges firm up, you can flip them on the other side.

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8.  As you can see from the photo below, they come out quite thin, but so delicious!  The key for getting them perfect is make them quite small so they cook evenly and are easy to flip.

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Your pancakes are now ready.   You can serve them with fresh fruit, syrup, jam or any other toppings of your choice.  I hope you enjoy this recipe, let me know what you think.

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Love,

Natalie

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